Mon, Dec 1, 2008, 4:50pm Twitter's Social Butterfly Effect
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(Last updated: Tue, Dec 2, 2008, 12:35am)
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here's something about the psychological space people have given to their twittering time that naturally makes tweets evolve toward something like happy social small talk. It's like parties where you are talking to a group of not-quite-known size and interests, so the conversation is kept hip, optimistic and hopefully interesting. Tweets, even taken as a whole, are representative of something, but it's a heavy function of the social scene that is the microblogging world.

Twitter asks, "What are you doing?" However, most people use the space to just blurt something out. Sometimes to get the word out about something, sometimes just to be heard. Because of the social scene that grows in Twitter, as with all social interaction, one also can't help but to be using it to shape one's public persona. Tweets are yet another (mostly irreversible) public face one has. You could just say anything, but people don't.

As a minor example, I've noticed that "negative" seeming tweets are frowned on. Almost as if perfectly cheerful people don't have critical, even angry things to say aloud. There seems to be no space for political or social comments which one might also want to tweet about, unless they have some overall positive, or at least cynically fun, lining.

I often start up a twitter client with something I want to blurt out, then put it down when I feel the vaguely negative social pressure of possible feedback. I find the site SecretTweet refreshing in its users' honesty. Lots of subjects are still very much taboo when your name or online self is associated with them.

I guess the motivation for this blog entry is just to point out the weird social scene that is implicit on Twitter (though also present in other communities, if in different ways). In a way, the web in general is a place where exaggerating one's happiness is the norm, for the perfectly reasonable purpose of not bringing everyone down, which I get. But it's a bother to have to always tweet upliftingly. I consider myself a relatively happy person, but I often have (appropriately!) cynical things to say.

Perhaps there is some social networking thing waiting to be born that is … somehow less personal while being more honest, and perhaps also lending itself to better discussions, even while keeping the short-statement format. Hrm.

Last point, as long as I'm here. The way following and being followed works on Twitter leads to a cliquishness. You can listen to someone, but they probably aren't listening to you. You may or may not know unless you check. It's a lot like high school. Er, or something. Something annoying. … It does seem like someone could outflank Twitter in this kind of communication by changing aspects like this. Or at least providing a better visualization layer.

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