3 things I love – and hate* – about Twitter
I have been on Twitter for a little over 2 years. In that time, I have amassed over 45 000 tweets and more than 1 300 followers (not many in comparison to some twitterers, though). I have seen it at its best and worst, and given my recent two year anniversary, this post is about what I love and hate about Twitter – from my perspective.
I have met some fabulous people on Twitter, both locally and across the globe. Locally, people I met first on Twitter (who I would never have had the opportunity to cross paths with) have become friends in real life (IRL), and my social life has escalated exponentially because of it. Most people on Twitter are funny, caring, supportive, interested and interesting. They provide me with a information and entertainment – even free stuff! – and I always have someone to talk to.
Conversely, there are some awful people on Twitter. Crass, rude, selfish, fake, annoying; you name it – they’re there. Luckily, these people are in the minority and it is easy to remove them from your timeline with an unfollow and block (if you have to). The difficulty is when you know these people IRL and you move in the same social circles. Managing these online and offline relationships can be quite tricky.
To rack up over 45 000 tweets means that I have spent a lot of time on Twitter. A few Twitter friends and I worked out it averaged to around 60 tweets a day, or 4 tweets an hour. I can’t remember if this was over 24 hours or included down time due to sleep. The point is I tweet a lot. I do it at work, I do it when I’m watching TV or a movie. I do it before and after a run. I do it on the bus. I do it because I enjoy it and get so much out of it (see above).
But I also think about what I would achieve if I didn’t tweet quite so much. The amount of time and energy I put into tweeting could easily be redirected into more reading or writing, for example. I could finish those writing projects that are piling up in my DropBox. I could invest in my more creative pursuits. I could find that dream man that everyone tells me is waiting just around the corner…
Many brands and businesses are accessible on Twitter, which is fabulous if you want to both rant and rave about customer service. Twitter can get excellent results for consumers because the medium forces businesses to deliver on promises. The transparency and immediacy of Twitter puts the power back into the hands of consumers, and that’s a good thing. Anyone who has read about my Qantas drama knows exactly what I mean (note to self: I must update my blog to reflect what Qantas Customer Care did to put things rights). I can tweet favourite celebrities and sometimes, just sometimes, they tweet back.
But this accessibility means that we as tweeters are also out there, especially someone as open as myself. Whatever you tweet can be taken out of context be open to misinterpretation, and even attack. Some people actually get their rocks off attacking other tweeters. I’ve seen all kinds of hate tweets spew forth from those wishing Justin Bieber dead to homophobic taunts of a really nasty nature. I refuse to let the C-word into my timeline on principle. At the very least you leave yourself open to being taken out of context; at the very worst you might find yourself on a very unpleasant bandwagon that has no brakes.
For me, Twitter is much more of a positive experience than a negative one, although I have had my fair share of negative experiences (and I’m sure I’m not alone there). I can’t think of another medium which allows you organise watching a movie with a friend (who you met on Twitter) who lives on the other side of the world (or different city) … where you tweet about it at the same time you both watch. Where else can you organise a bunch of disparate people to get together to have regular karaoke nights at different venues around the city? I got to see shows for free during Adelaide Fringe and Cabaret Festivals just by tweeting about them, and Yalumba sent me a bottle of their Split Pick moscato to try because I tweeted about moscato generally (another note to self: I must order a case).
Twitter has all the power of a medium that brings together a global community of people who have a common interest. You just need to watch Twitter when world news unfolds – like the Japaneses Tsunami, the New Zealand earthquake, and the Egyptian riots – to see its power.
As a community, though, we also have the responsibility to ensure that Twitter evolves into a force that uses its power for good, and not evil. I am ever hopeful that I am part of the evolution into the positive.
* Hate is much too strong a word, but it makes a really effective headline!