On Twitter

by danhon

Here’s something Cait wrote that I really like. It’s about Twitter, and it’s called Not like it was in the old days. Go and read it, then come back here.

This being my blog, I’m going to just splurge a few things.

Twitter – as it was created – was for keeping in touch with a small group of friends, people who Ev, Biz, etc. knew in real life. Really, it was – go read this. That’s great – it’s a social grooming/ambient intimacy thing for socialising with up to, say, a dunbar number of people.

Thing is, Obvious accidentally invented a platform, because Twitter was just open enough (and, obviously, not totally open given the gripes, etc.) for people to do other things with it. There was some privacy, but not much – it’s clearly not very fine grained.

But Cait’s hit upon what’s happened now that Twitter’s being used more as a “thing for sending status updates” rather than “thing for sending status updates to friends who, well, sometimes could be public, but sometimes might not be”.

This is what I do/don’t get:

  • Twitter – or what Twitter does – is a medium
  • You can use it in lots of different ways, just like email. Look: I can have a closed email list with my friends that’s invite only, or I can have a public discussion list, or I can have a broadcast list.
  • Stephen Fry uses Twitter (now) as a broadcast thing, with occasional interaction
  • A lot of criticism is that the social grooming/ambient intimacy has that’s taken place on Twitter was previously public. There’s an argument that that was a very stupid thing to do. My profile used to be public, because, well, hardly anyone was using Twitter and I didn’t mind. Now there’s, well, AOL on, and I don’t want all and sundry coming in to see why I’m annoyed at Wandsworth again. SEE?! IF YOU DON’T KNOW ME, YOU DON’T KNOW WHO WANDSWORTH IS.
  • Hence the whole Daily Mail-style “who gives a fuck what you had for breakfast?” – well, my friends might, and they might not care that much in the explicit sense, but it gives them a rhythm and a sense of my life. It’s like if we hung out in the same house and I was eating Frosties every day and one day they saw me switch to Bran Flakes and they might twig that Something Was Up. Er, glancing, etc. Look it up.
  • So I go private, but I still get a whole bunch of requests from a) social media idiots who appear to want to follow me because other people follow me, and b) people I don’t know who want to follow me in, presumably, a business sense, but don’t seem to have twigged that the danhon account is private for a reason – it’s about my personal life
  • (aside: I used to blog about my personal life and again, that may have been a stupid thing, because now all that content’s findable, but really, it didn’t *seem* to matter at the time, because not everyone was on the fricking internet)
  • So now there are all these behaviours and social mores and conventions about how you should and shouldn’t use Twitter, which confuses me, because, really, you can use it how the hell you want – just don’t annoy me. 
  • See: I used to follow Stephen Fry when he twittered every now and then, and it didn’t stick out in my timeline. But now, when he updates every 5 seconds or so, it clutters it all up and drowns out my friends. And I like my friends, and I see them reasonably often and really, I’m not a Stephen Fry stalker. So I stop following him.
  • Christ knows I don’t want to maintain multiple accounts. Gah.

Er. That’s it.