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.” 




  1. Entertaining, inspiring, educating and just fun reading. Never a dull moment reading your blogs. KEEP @ it. Loving it.