Monday, 18 October 2010

"The Medium is the Message" for Twitter, too!

Several years ago, a professor of mine told our class: “The last word on anything hasn’t been said.” That stuck. Clearly. Occasionally, I think of that sage statement and tell myself that that would explain the plethora of views on any given topic – on any given Sunday.

Enter mine, about Facebook and Twitter. (I'm thinking, I might have a two-parter on my hands.) Now, before the yawns and ho-hums, bear with me as I explore what must be a like-dislike interest I have in both. They are both social networking sites – no argument there. But, as one top tweet observed, funny how social networking sites seem to make us more anti-social. So, we talk to each other but we don’t really talk; and sometimes - especially with Twitter, it's not necessarily to each other. It’s more like ‘at each other’. I’ve found, given my recentish immersion into Twitter – and I know it’s not too soon to tell – that quite a lot of tweets from individuals are spurts of opinions/observations/comments about a topic. Once in a while, there’s a tweet to (or @) someone, in a reply. Sometimes it's sharing via ReTweet. The majority, though, are those that betray…no, let’s use exhibit a kind of random stream of consciousness that makes its way into a 140-character post. I've noticed that many companies/organizations tweet, too. That should give an indication that the facility is relied upon as a communications and marketing tool.

(Now, at this juncture, some would begin to wonder whether they should take any of what I’m saying with a grain of salt. I say yes, indeed! At worst, shrug it off and move on to the next topic of interest and the myriad tweets. At best, trust, but verify. Much of this is from my own observation, anyway, and has little to do with my MA in Communication. Perhaps the desire to look more closely through my often-preferred trope of metaphor, has indeed been touched by formal training.)

So, here's the thing, as another top tweet pointed out about Twitter, people are constantly talking to strangers. It’s not so much the novelty of that idea, it’s the fact that the strangers are from all over! (Have I heard of satellite radio? Yes. But, think about it. Isn't it imaginable that the rate of subscription to SatRad eats the dust of Twitter's subscription rate? I'm sure of it.)

To proceed, the idea of novelty is lost when one thinks about an on-air announcer/broadcaster, getting into the minds, hearts and homes of, well, strangers, over a period of time. That's been done. People tune in, they listen, if they like what they hear, they tune in another time - "rinse wash repeat". So, the announcer would be the poster, the listeners the followers, whatever he/she says, the tweets. Sooo, it's alike in that sense.

The points of departure then? For one, the followers get to keep a copy of what was broadcast and, if they “called in”/tweeted in response, they keep a copy of that too. Another is that these updates come in from several sources (all whom you follow) all within seconds. Try getting that done even by SatRad. Maybe I’m slow on the uptake here, but, I haven’t yet learnt of any broadcaster that gives up-to-the-second news/bulletins which the listeners get just a few seconds after and keeps this up 24/7. So, joined by mutual interests and hashtags (#), the broadcaster enters the mind, hearts and homes of those who’ve opted to tune in. This is an important point, because, unlike an on-air feed that you are inevitably tuned into (unless you’re plugged into your hand-held or something) when you’re at a store or the hairdresser or wherever, the broadcast/posts are by choice.

Would it be fair to surmise, then, (and I'm on to another idea here) that every single solitary tweet that you receive is borne out of the decision to be fed by that poster? If so, then it lends itself to the crux of the next question: Is there an underlying messiah complex that begins to take form after one acquires a certain number of followers? Just asking. I honestly wouldn't know - unless I did some research - as about half of my current eight followers are family, and, of the rest, I'm pretty sure two are marketers.

But, how does having a large following impact an individual, or the subsequent postings of that individual, who was (or would otherwise be) not-as-well-known? Does it even? Is that why some tweets come off as "wisdom from the oh so wise one"? Because there are followers who are (probably) hanging on every word? Do they? Sometimes I tweet stuff that would make my sis go, "Okaaaay. Right." Other times, "That's so true." Hmm. Without fail, we write/share from our different frames of reference, experiences and what not. Sometimes, though, you can tell the ones that are overreaching...

Maybe I'm over-thinking it, for, to be honest, I don't read every single tweet from those I follow. Still, even the term "follower", lends itself to this leader-follower duality, so I really can't be that far off base. That duality is certainly touched by the medium of choice (Twitter) and, according to Marshall McLuhan is the message: "The medium is the message" because it is the "medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action."

So, the fact that I tweet or I'm on Twitter, or however else it's articulated, communicates an intrinsic message in and of itself. (Not tweeting? Well, I never! I don't speak to people who don't tweet!) There is also an intuitive understanding of how the participants should (or should not) associate and interact with each other.

McLuhan was right on the ball, too, when he coined, "Invention is mother of necessity." So many things are now needed - online social networking etiquette; policies; leglislation. Read, just today, an article refering to Thompson Reuters and its decision to ban anonymous comments citing "legal risk" etc.

I shall continue this like-dislike interest, I imagine. My take at this point? If it's working for you, keep it going. Define working? Meets your needs and/or the purposes for which you indulge.

If not, don't take a trip to where the guilt is if you wish to hop off this train. Leave - guilt-free - the microcosm that is Twitter and join the other billions of people on the planet for whom satisfaction to express observations and communicate with others is derived through dozens of other non-Twitter ways.

Next up, why I was on Facebook but not on Facebook.

Her space :-) Happy Birthday to my niece. All of two today!!! You are my sunshine... la la la la la.

Several years ago while living in the USA, I took a trip to visit a friend in New York City. (New York, New York - city so nice they named it twice:-) Anyway, we decided to do some last stop shopping - on the way out (she was gonna find her way back home). I parked about two blocks away from the store, fed the meter for an hour, and we were off. After about forty-five minutes, I noticed the time and beckoned to my friend...oh yes! My lil sis was there as well. So, I beckoned to them both that we'd have to finish up 'cause the cashier lines weren't all that short. My friend decided to stay on a while and so sis and I practically high-tailed it out of there! It was now a mad rush trying to beat the meter. All I could think about was getting a ticket and how much I didn't want to get a ticket! It was about two minutes to expiration and by this time we were running down the sidewalk, past the stores that had set up 'sidewalk sales' when, the next thing I knew, I bounced right into her!

She was a little girl, no more than five, could be six. And there she stood with her ice-cream cone ice-creamless! She looked down at it, then up at her mom who was walking just ahead. She'd stopped and turned when I'd stopped and flashed me a look like I was something horrible. I apologised to her profusely and sincerely but briefly. I still couldn't get the pending expiration out of my mind - no ticket under my windscreen wiper, please! And I hurried off.

We made it before the expiration but I felt like crap. And every time since then that I remember how I knocked off a little girl's ice-cream from her cone, that feeling comes over me. Of course there were more mature, less selfish actions I could have taken in that moment. But I didn't. What I did do, however, was learn one of my life's biggest lessons. In a moment when I knowingly offend someone, I try to do the right and selfless thing. Even if it feels difficult.

For I absolutely detest that other feeling.


No comments:

Post a Comment