Sunday, 28 July 2013

A Twistraining Order and Other T'ings

I am a human woman with a Twitter account. I am not a bot. (Had to spell that out? Who would've thunk it?) I know what I do on Twitter and my purpose for using the tool - to help me "use it all up." (See blog descriptor.) And, as I always say, with over seven billion people on the planet, we're bound to bump into someone else at some point. Kinda translates to the millions on Twitter - bound to bump into someone and rub them the wrong way now and again. Tweeps aren't like the friends I've had since High School or those I'd met up to when I did the MA in Communication - without the 's'. Tweeps are folks I pay a visit to on Twitter and enjoy a quick chat with. And, oh! The wit of some. For others, it's how warm they come across.

So, Communications - with the 's'. I'm "into Communications" as I've heard it. I dig it. Been close to twenty years, now - still loving it and still learning. (Hence my beating myself up the other day about my previous post and how I had skirted an issue instead of speaking directly to it. A narrative shouldn't leave you with a sense of, "You'd have had to be there." And, I think a couple of the paragraphs came off like that. Sorry. Again.) I like to see how relationships take shape - people to people/business to people/government to people; how messages are sent and received and how the medium itself, being a part of the message, plays a role in the dynamics. I enjoy communications from the strategic to the tactical; from corporate to government - Jamaica, USA and Canada; from the head to the heart and offline and online. And, I've found there's always room for making communications better to achieve stated objectives. I love being a part of making it better. And, after my hit over the head other day, even more so now I maintain my resolve to "say what I mean; mean what I say - and write responsibly."

The Twistraining Order 
I have a small Twitter account so it's easy to spot when the number of followers changes. So, imagine my surprise - no, make that, shock - as I made my way into the weekend on Friday afternoon. I was actually on Twitter at the time and noticed when the number of followers and those I'm following both went down by one. If someone unfollows you, the follower number goes down. If they block you, then they are, also, blocking you from following (read: having anything to do with) them. The long and the short? It felt so much like a Restraining Order. But, as most things in Twitterverse take on the root, it felt like a Twistraining Order. I have absolutely no idea who did it. I've never signed up for any of those follow/unfollow reports - I don't care about that. What I do know is that the blocking felt like someone had joined me in a room full of people and, after hearing what I had to say a few times, got a Twistraining Order. And, they don't even know me (was what I was thinking). At that thought, I literally laughed out loud! Well, guess they'd seen and heard enough and made an informed decision. I did not see it coming, though. 'Cause, as I tweeted yesterday, I'm one of the nicest tweeps (see what I mean?) in that space. :-)

I am not under the illusion that everyone who follows will stay. I've lost many followers along the way. And I have unfollowed. It wasn't about the unfollow. It was about the go-away-and-stay-away-ness of the thing that I did not see coming.

I'd experienced a block before. But, I had seen that one coming. I had disagreed, rather diplomatically, with a position. The tweep had said stteo: That person is kind because he gives food to the poor in front of all those cameras. My reply was no, real kindness is when he gives when no one is looking. (Totally off the original topic. I'm not trying to pick a fight, I'm simply making a point.) So, when I was unfollowed. I wasn't too surprised. As I tried sending a tweet "@" that person sometime after, I realized that the tweet wouldn't take; it wasn't being posted. That was when, dear folks, I discovered what it was to be blocked.

Why did the one on Friday bother me? It must've been the human being and the communications in me - the two that I must've digested at lunch earlier in the day. Seriously, though. It did irk me - after the laughs. For, as I have mentioned in this blog before, the medium is an online space in which we interact. But we take our personalities and human tendencies and wants and needs and what-nots that we exhibit offline, to that online space. (It's not completely accurate to say "that we exhibit in real life", for the online interactions do take place as a part of real life.) And, I imagine that in offline interactions, if you're in a room full of people and someone you'd met a few minutes ago suddenly snubbed you, it'd irk a bit. There are those among us, I guess, that would shrug and go, "Riiight. Whatever." For others, that would come after subsequent out-of-the-blue snubs, I guess. For that initial one, though, default mode would be introspection. We'd stop for a second and go, "Wait...what? Did I do something to offend?" That sort of thing. (Saw the analogy about "room full of people" in this story after I'd written this bit.) Story offers up some musings about interactions on Twitter, too.

My initial reaction is what it is. And I know why it is so. I feel. And, I put feelings into words. It's what I do, and I'm good at it. (Monk) Yes, there are those feelings I just can't seem to put into words - mostly those borne out of an awesome wonder and delight - or forlornness. But, for others, there are words. And, I put a lot of effort into communicating clearly and respectfully. Sometimes, yes, I gotta draw the line and do what needs to be done to get a message across. I have blocked a couple of people over four years but, it was after certain exchanges and I'm sure they saw it coming.


"We shape our tools and then our tools shape us"
As I mentioned yesterday, too, it does come back to Marshall McLuhan's "we shape our tools and then our tools shape us." I really like watching the dynamics on Twitter - even when it lends itself to making me question whether I've communicated in an untoward way. The folks behind Twitter and Facebook and the like must know a thing or two about the human psyche and behaviour and what structures and sub-structures enable or drive certain human behaviour and shape interactions. Fascinating, really.

As with any online tools these days, after we've started using them, we get what I could coin post-conceived ideas of how the tool "should" work. The tool has been conceived, prototype done and it's in full production mode. And, it's working well. Intuitively, though, we come to expect that it "should" be able to do this and that. For example, I suggested to @Twitter the other day to enable me to do a search of my own Timeline. There's the archive that can be downloaded, but, what I'm after is a quick search while on Twitter. Lazy much? Naah. We use and we ask for more and we talk to each other and try to bear in mind that we're just there trying to make the best of the tool.

How do you do Twitter?
This is not a concern about Twitter's health. How you do Twitter is totally up to you. I don't know that there's a standard way to use Twitter. You do it for you - unless you're doing it for, or representing, someone else or a brand. That's another story. One may be guided in what to and what not to expect. But, the same way everyone lives their lives offline (you sneaky English language), again, that will likely carry over. You learn from the mistakes of others  - no temper tantrum; try not to start a fight, for e.g. - and learn quickly from your own. We use the medium in our own way and, depending on what you wish to get out of it, there are tonnes of tweets, blogs, and books that provide guidance. Common sense and courtesy have been working for me in my Twitter communications. My reactions, and ways of interaction, may not be popular, but, they are mine. I own them, I like them and I am at peace with them. There are millions of Twitter users and I'm pretty sure some of them are of like mind, anyway.

The medium brings out the best and the worst in us; it puts on display the best and the worst of us. And, it can do this in one scroll of the thumb - Syria, cute puppy, earthquake, racism, soccer results...  It is an enabler and driver of things human. The id, ego and super ego are on display. Closet philosophers and thinkers - maybe not the deep ones - are there aplenty. I like to pause and listen/watch how others regard the medium -  what they're saying about Twitter, while on Twitter. For example, I follow @elevenpr who provides media training and occasionally takes a look at Twitter analytics - watching the movement on Twitter as users respond to a current issue. Another tweep I met, well, how I understand it, he sorta does what Twitter does to generate TTs (Trending Topics) and a whole lot more techie stuff. Nerd. Sweet nerd, though. ;-)

It's a place for human beings and for human doings. And many of those who are doing, inspire. Yes, I'm there for the wit (oh my goodness, there's this guy!!! @jrehling and @whirledrecord) and for the inspiration. Of course, my sis, @MizDurie, I have for that and for great company when I'd rather be alone - "Ok, I'll come with you." (It's a Monk thing.) The wit and inspiraton, I believe, help me in some way to use up all of me - to the last drop.

Subliminal and not-so-hidden messages
I tweeted the other day: "How do you "earn" a subtweet? Tweet something. You're welcome." For, as we read each others we read each other's thoughts on Twitter, we are bound to come across something we don't agree with. That might trigger your own thought about a subject and, unwittingly or not, you express it. "Subtweet" does have a rather negative connotation, though. Think passive aggressive or confrontational without the direct confrontation. It is regarded as a subtweet when it is in response or reaction to what someone said, but without tagging (using the person's '@' handle). I did not understand what a subtweet was, until a fav tweep, @grammakaye from Green Bay, Wisconsin, used the term about two years ago. I asked her what she meant by it and she explained. I then offered that it was like a term we'd use in Jamaica, that you "throw wud" at somebody. She agreed. Subtweeting is not my thing. Done it fewer than five times since using Twitter - and one of them was directed at George Zimmerman: "There's free and then there's "free". #DefineFree." (In related news: Just this weekend, the Jamaica Observer published a letter I'd written about a damning subtext embedded in an MP's recent tweet.)

Then there are favs or stars. When someone 'stars' your tweets, over and over and over, it may be seen as "hitting on" you. Kinda like a Twitter crush, if you will. (Some may take it offline. Who knows?) I don't know that there was a manual on this but it's one of those understandings that has appropriated itself into general acceptance among Twitter users.) A similar thing goes for the RT (retweet). If you find someone repeatedly RTing your tweets, they're likely trying to get your attention. They're also sending a message to their own followers that...they like you? For, of course, your tweets then end up on their TL (Timeline). A lot. In that vein, you can understand how it may make you feel a tad awkward when someone goes all the way back in your TL and RTs and favs - from months ago. And they keep doing it. What does that sound like to you? It sounds like stalking to me. Ditto if they keep tagging you with mundane tweets. Be prepared to block and/or report to Twitter. Came across this guide to Twitter lingo. (For now?) Some of these "messages" you just get in your gut. Then, once in a while, you'll see someone tweet/write about it and you go, "Oh! So, I wasn't too far off, then." Yep. People are people wherever you go.

Companies are on Twitter, too
"Companies are people, too." Hm. Wrote that. Googled it -  and found this website. So, on Twitter, there's no "my people will call your people." There's a direct reaching out and engaging. You could say that companies on Twitter are re-sized to take on a smaller and more personable feel. My guess is that they are not afforded the luxury of blocking - unless, for a most excellent and defensible reason. (Yet to hear of that happening.) Whatever rant is directed at them, they just suck it up and carry out issues management as best they can for all looking on to see. A fire lit in the Twitterverse spreads faster than any wildfire on earth. That's why it's important for companies, once they wet their feet in social media (especially a real-time space such as Twitter), to engage. Make people come to know that the company will respond to them - and keep its word. It's less likely that someone will stay mad at a company that talks to them on Twitter; one that is seen to be doing its best to address a problem in short order. People looking on at the exchange are reasonable and will take sides accordingly.  As a company, let them take yours.

I came across a quote by C.S. Lewis last night and tweeted it. It made me smile, for, I found it after I'd stated my resolve last weekend  on Twitter and in my journal. It says: “Child, to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that's the whole art and joy of words.” 



Thursday, 18 July 2013

Ants Don't Use Twitter; People Use Twitter

Recently, I’ve begun to interact a bit more on Twitter. It used to be that I’d tweet about things that interest me – writing, news, media, communications and the inspirational story or quote here and there.  What’s left? You may wonder. Let’s just say, a lot. But, I would post-and-run, in a sense. Just say it and move on. After a long while, I met a few nice people – I am positive they’re not bots!
It turns out, though, that the past few months have had me chatting with more than a few folks. At first, I wasn’t sure how to feel about that. I have always been wary of the open conversations I might have with strangers. Turns out that once you both get a feel for each other and remain respectful of each other, it’s pretty okay. The sky doesn’t fall at all. Yes, I’ve found that mutual respect is key to a good online interaction. Dare I say, relationship.

Here’s the thing (Monk):  My online interactions – mainly Twitter – are embedded in respect and kindness. It is true, for me, anyway, that all I need to operate well within this space that is so public, I learned growing up. Yes, the result of good broughtupsy, as we’d say in Jamaica. Simply, good home training. And, that transcends to the online world quite easily. The same courtesies that you would demonstrate in your day to day offline, do apply online. For example, you wouldn’t heckle someone during their speech and point out a mispronounced word, right? Well, it takes a certain kind of person… Similarly, such a courtesy may be applied on Twitter – you wouldn’t reply to someone and point out a typo. That’s not gracious. You may, however, (again, depending on whom it is and how anal you are) send a gentle DM. It's like a private meeting. That's classy.

Similarly, if a few people are having a conversation, offline, you wouldn’t simply jump in - especially when one or more parties are not familiar/acquaintances. I think I’ve messed up on that one. But it was something trivial and humourous – is my story. But, I usually approach with an “If I may…” so they know I’m not barging in. Little things like that.

The Twitterverse can be a dangerous place. It can also be a very revealing place. Many users, I imagine, do not think about how their way of thinking and persona are betrayed by how they interact and how they say what they say. I’ve blogged about this particular idea before – how Twitter helps give place to a messianic complex, if you will. The whole idea of having followers, hanging on to your every word (as some may perceive it), having influence over many – especially those who are easily influenced – can easily lead one to think that one is "all that and a bag o’ chips.” It may lead to oversized egos, self-centredness and ideas of magnanimity.  

How do you know if this is happening? I do the kindness test. Note: This does not apply when someone is being a troll or being intentionally annoying or hurtful. The freedom to tag someone in a tweet or the ‘have device will tweet’ mentality, giving yourself ‘free’ reign to bash or badger someone, comes with consequences, like, oh, blocking? For example?

But, the kindness test is simple and easy. Know the quote:  real power is knowing that you can, but don’t? Or, it’s nice to be important, but more important to be nice? Or, how about, real kindness is doing something and expecting nothing in return?  When you know that someone has wronged you, in that open space, and it hurts, with thousands of eyes looking on, how do you respond? I saw an exchange earlier this week and came away feeling sad. An apology was given but the response was not gracious. No sincere and gracious apology says, “I accept but. ..” And,  not to mention that it takes gusto to apologise in the first place. I thought, that could have been done in a kinder way.

Depending on how and what you tweet – but, I find, mainly how you engage – people will come to follow you. Twitter is great for interaction. Millions of people on it from all over the world for different reasons. There are some horrible people in the world. There are some beautiful people in the world. And there are those in-between. Twitter has made large corporations engage like a mom-and-pop store and has made the celebrity like a friend next door. Even parody accounts, like Doritos Ontario, get more love sometimes than the real companies, because of how they engage! When you have a direct access to your favourite singer or athlete, it’s a beautiful thing – if you’re into that sort of thing. Little wonder, then, that when that direct link is broken, fans/followers will immediately detect a disconnect. And they don’t like it. Remember Ashton Kutcher and that time when he'd come out in support of that Penn State football coach in the sex abuse scandal? After he realised what the brouhaha was all about, he acknowledged his error and backed off for a while from tweeting.

Remember when…well, I remember when I was little, I'd occasionally watch, and be fascinated by, an army of ants carrying crumbs and just moving in a line, up and down, this way and that – until I stuck something in their path. Immediately, they'd scatter a bit, scurrying to find the nearest exit that would take them back to their familiar route. They had a direct line to what they wanted and something had come in their path. Now, this is reaching, I know, but, if ants used Twitter, when something like that happens, no doubt there'd be hashtags popping up all over the colony: #whatswiththewall or #wheresthecandy and the like. Anything to restore things to how they were. In time, they find their way around, often creating a new path. But, as if I need to make the point, ants don’t use Twitter; people use Twitter. And, when a direct link is broken, people use this new tool to tweet their questions and frustrations in search and hope for the restoration of that direct link. Doesn’t matter that there may be someone who’s trying to make it all better. All they know is they had a direct line, it is no longer there and they want it back. The voice of the brand was connecting directly and, in a moment, it has been replaced.The filter thing doesn't work! Can hardly blame them. They had got accustomed to that guy or gal tweeting/speaking directly to them. There is a way to deal with matters of this nature. Kutcher had shut down that time; Jamaica's VCB went quiet on her TL after news broke about adverse findings. Point is, people are not tone deaf or stupid. Their ears are tuned in to what is happening. They know their “stars” are working out their problems offline. They understand radio-silence on the Twitter feed. They know that tweeting during controversies only provide fodder for media houses. In the meantime, however, there is someone else working tirelessly on their behalf; a voice from their own corner of cyberspace or other space, being a direct source of information. Social Media marketing and PR is a work in progress.

 Another thing to note…to remember, really, is that the number of followers is no measure of one’s status or calibre. In some quarters I've seen a semblance of hierarchy  - like, those who make it to the "society pages" vs. those who don't, kind of thing. It is pathetic, really. Those who fawn over and those who, in the way they relate, are only left to have their followers bow at their feet. It is pathetic and it is ugly. And, just as offline, some human beings in Twitterverse often find themselves wanting to belong. Beliebers, I imagine, have got over JB reaching out to every single one of them, for example. The Twitterverse is a vast community and, as lives shift to the online space, the same longings persist.

People have lives – or, ought to have rich and meaningful lives – away from these online spaces. No matter how much I get along with tweeps, I know that my offline life is richer and more meaningful than what I do in cyberspace. I keep reminding myself of this as, one day, I may have more than my current 300+ followers. At no time should I take that as a thing. It means zilch. Zip. Nada. One of the thoughts that keep me grounded as I write and work at becoming a published author, is that, were I to become a bit more known, I must remember that on my death bed (if it happens there), my thought will not be: “I wish I had got a few more followers.” Or, “I wish I had done one more book reading. “ Yes, the thoughts of what my final thoughts may be as I depart this weary sod, help keep me grounded.

As someone tweeted today, we are all just learning. And, another pointed out, it changes so fast, this social media marketing thing, it's hard to say that anyone is really an expert at it. It really does seem that by the time you think you've made the two ends meet, somebody moves the ends. Much of it is about doing unto others as you'd have them do unto you. Basic communication principles and common sense will get you far. Much of the netiquette required, we already know.  And, when that gut feeling says, "Think twice," it's better than for it to later say, "I told you so."


Monday, 8 July 2013

Word-coloured Lens

I used that term on Saturday in a tweet. Word-coloured lens. And, I liked it. I was making the point that my poetry  - from teen years to now - has changed over time. Certainly, the way I write, has. It has become more ...mature, as is wont to happen with growth. Also, that through the word-lens, I could see the metamorphosis I had undergone. More than one, in fact. So, recording the fact of change - and how. In a more succinct way (the tweet): "Weird to behold metamorphosis through word-coloured lens. Core things remain- of course. I love thickly. Always have;always will. #PoemsToPC."

July has seen me typing these poems I've had over the years stashed away in note books and on folder leaves and post-its and jammed-printer paper and the clean side of fliers... Anything I could get my hands on when I needed to put pen or pencil to paper right away. Undertaking this compilation has been thrilling - funny, enlightening and thrilling. (Hoping to get it done for a book of poetry titled: "Fourteen to Forty: The Formative Years." Praying for God's guidance in that.) Now, the plan was to type about four to six per night. However, I think because there is some relief that my mind isn't at work creating the poems, there is ease in "just transcribing" and I get carried away to nine. Then I round it off. To ten.

Perhaps I'll share a bit more about the kind of change undergone in subsequent posts for July. We'll see. Before I go on to typing tonight's set, however, I wanted to share two poems with you. The first, at 17yo; the other at 41. (Maybe the book should be called Fourteen to Fortyish. Tee hee.) Anyway, take a look at what I mean. (And, the common "without" is sheer buck-up.)

Without Electricity

In that flame I see you
And I see me
Sitting by that same flame
Saying that we see each other.

The black wick symbolizes
The hard and trying times we go through
But, there is always hope
As the blue flame shows
And it leaps up into
That pyramid of bright light
Depth of sheer peace and joy.

- Dnafcnatgada

We had a laugh the other night as I read that one to sis @MizDurie, remarking that it was a long time JPS (Jamaica's electricity provider) had been treating us to power cuts. As I mentioned in a tweet to them: "Thanks JPS! Inspiring poetry and bringing lovers together (in the dawk) for over 85 years!" Lol! Anyway, here, now, is the other. 

Without the Kill

The nape of my neck is all aflame
As the sun's rays beat down
The hem of my blouse flutters
Responding to the whiff of breeze
That takes the slightest edge 
Off the heat.

I am wrapped in a heat
That cannot be ignored.
Too tightly wound, I am
Unable to move.

Hot and breezy
Trapped. Uneasy.
Like the way you have me going
Friend to lover

It's how you make me feel hope
Yet hopeless
How you hold me
But without caress
How you kiss me. Hard.
Without the kill

And, killing me softly
Without the will
To love me
Back to life.

- Dnafcnatgada

Don't ask. Really. But, see what I mean?