Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Disturbance In the Twitterverse

For the past couple of years in January I have compiled a “Twitter list”, comprised of accounts that over the past year had come to my attention on Twitter for being innovative, interesting, unique and worthy of following – but this year when I went to make the list I realized I didn’t feel the need to do so, because Twitter has changed.

There are many who have been gnashing their teeth (or expressing delight) over the supposed demise of Twitter, and while I would agree that the medium has changed I think it is a bit soon to post its obituary. There were most certainly departures of well-known and well-followed figures from Twitter over the last couple of years, from those who drifted away quietly to those who went out in a blaze of glory, all guns firing and leaving the Twitter-masses puzzled by what they had just witnessed. The reality, though, is that Twitter has in many ways stopped being the “new” medium it had been for some years and as such doesn’t really need much in the way of “must follow” lists and “top Tweeters”. Those who remain on Twitter are, generally speaking, comfortable with the medium and have found their own groove, whether it is following the news, engaging in politics or posting memes. Twitter just isn't the wiggly new puppy everyone must play with as it used to be - Twitter has grown up into a full-fledged family pet instead, and as everyone knows we all love puppies but not everyone loves it when they become a dog.
Twitter remains a useful medium for many of us, both personally and professionally. I maintain a number of Twitter accounts and while some users (or former users) decry the amount of time Twitter takes I would suggest that with a tweet-scheduling function and judicious use of  time one can successfully operate not only one account but several and for different purposes and functions. Those who seem most concerned about the time-sucking aspect of the medium appear to be those who are most concerned they will fall prey to it, but like any potentially time-wasting activity (television, movies, Facebook, etc) it is something that each individual must determine in terms of their limits and interests. I am most bemused by those who comment on how much time others spend on the medium, as it says far more about their own concerns than those upon whom they level judgement, and just like everything else our social media time is, in the end, our personal choice. I am equally bemused by the ex-Twitter user, as they are on occasion as vehement as ex-smokers in their anti-Twitter campaigns, although it seems clear that just like there are those who will choose to continue to smoke so will some continue to tweet, retweet and favourite, because it is something they enjoy doing regardless of what others may think of their choice.

There are those who claim Facebook is a FAR better medium, but in many ways Facebook has changed too, becoming the bastion of the spreading of rumours, misinformation and click-bait articles designed to lure you in with the worst kind of tripe (in some ways Facebook is the reality TV of the internet, really). In my opinion the two mediums are different, neither better than the other but really just used in different ways and for different purposes.
As I thought about my annual Twitter list I realized how unnecessary it has become. When I advise someone new to Twitter on how to use it I simply tell them to observe initially, follow those they find interesting, never be afraid to unfollow someone and wade in as feels right, always realizing that the medium is limited by 140 characters and so you must be concise in both words and meaning if you want to be understood (and to hopefully avoid conflict, unless you are into that kind of thing in which case no advice is really required).

Twitter is not rocket science. For some it is useful and enjoyable, and for some it is not. It is also not the playground of devils or bullies as some claim, but nor is it without some potential perils and pitfalls - and like most social media it is a tricky place for the easily offended or fainthearted, as it is as different as every single user on it. Given that this number is in the millions in Canada alone it is safe to say that Twitter might not be for everyone, but it certainly has become the place where many choose to spend their idle time.

So, no top Twitter list this year, no "must follows" and no breakdown of the accounts that inspired, intrigued, amused and/or appalled me. When I meet elderly senior citizens who tweet - and I have - I know that the medium has become commonplace enough that the must-follow lists are not necessary. I also don't believe that Twitter is dying, as I cannot count the number of times Facebook has been declared effectively "dead" and yet it is most definitely alive and well, just changed over time just as Twitter has done and will do. And if you disagree with me and want to argue the point in 140 characters, feel free to hit me up - on Twitter, of course!

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