The Reluctant Twit

Posted: May 23, 2009 in marketing, wine
Tags: ,

I admit to approaching Twitter with the same enthusiasm as my annual flu shot – a mix of resignation, cynicism yet glimmer of hope that the whole experience might pay off – in the case of the jab, I wouldn’t catch the flu, and in the case of Twitter, I might actually find the experience rewarding, personally and professionally.

So, imagine the conversation around the BoozeMonkey coffee table :

Sandie: “I’m going to be a Twit today…”

Marc: “Thanks for the warning, I was heading out anyway.”

Sandie: “Wow. You are hilarious. No, I’m going to log on to Twitter and start Tweeting.”

Marc: “Why?”

Sandie: “I have absolutely no idea.”

So, in the name of science, truth, beauty etc etc, we Twittered. Or Tweeted. Or something.

I think the Honeymoon lasted, oh what, a DAY before Marc and I were Twittering each other with little gems like “How the hell do people DO this??” and “I just feel all DIRTY…”

But then something happened. In between shaking our fists at the heavens and bemoaning the drivel that shot into our inboxes every second, it happened. We got hooked.

Right, let’s take a step back. None of us would be here if we didn’t invest some credibility with social media, and find that it makes our lives more interesting, connected or informed.

But WHY? (Imagine more fist shaking at the heavens…)

Facebook has only been around since 2006, and let’s face it, most of us have socks older than that, and Twitter is quite a recent phenomenon.

Facebook boasts over 100 million users and have their demographic roots firmly in the 25~50 year olds, making it a pretty powerful medium for advertising. Likewise, Twitter has grabbed the Guernsey for the fastest growing online community in March this year, with 7 million users.

So, there is no doubt that these media have grabbed our fancy.

But, why..?

Young Mr Zuckerberg, the pimply genius who invented Facebook puts it simply down to the simple fact that “this is just social norms catching up with what technology is capable of”.

Basically this means that social forums like Facebook and Twitter are simply connecting humans in the way we naturally wish to engage with others – brought together by similar interests, concerns and linkages.

Human beings have a natural, genetic need to socialize with others and be part of the lives of others, and technology, using Zuckerberg’s rationale, has simply caught up with our primal need to communicate and form a tribe of other like-minded souls. As traditional forms of interaction (church youth groups etc) decline in popularity, new forms of technological engagement spring up to satisfy the need.

None of this is rocket science. And it still doesn’t explain why rational adults (and for the sake of the social petri dish, I will include Marc and myself in this..) feel the need to update their circle about the fact they are about to have a cheese sandwich.

Or even MORE bizarre, the followers who WANT to know about their buddy’s sandwich situation.

Social scientists have a name for this incessant online contact – Ambient Awareness. They compare it to being physically near someone and picking up on their mood through the little things they do – body language, sighs, stray comments – out of the corner of your eye.

But talk to other Twits and Facebookers, and discover that the mystery of Twitter (or any sort of micro-blog) is not about the single, individual tweet, but about the holistic connection it builds with the other person.

Social scientists (honestly, do they get a degree from the L’Oreal Institute…??) claim that every little snippet of information coalesces into a more complete, intimate portrait of your friends lives. Clive Thompson, a writer for the New York Times cited Japanese sociologist Mizuko Ito as first finding this pattern and calling this aggregate phenomenon ‘co-presence’.

Another L’Oreal Institute protégée Marc Davis, a scientist at Yahoo confirmed this by explaining that following Twitter for a day was like the beginnings of a short story; follow it for a month, and it became a novel.

I admit it, and so does Marc (although he’s still in denial) – we are converts; the cynical turned believers, the knockers turned advocates.

I have connected with old friends and made new ones.

Dammit, I think I may have actually learnt something from people with not just the same, but different points of view. I have found myself following and being close to people and the ups and downs of their lives, simply by their regular tweets and updates.

And, hey. At a time when we are isolating ourselves more and more in real life, because of swine flu, recession or any one of a smorgasbord of fears, concerns and nasties, anything that brings us together and keeps a social fabric alive can’t be a bad thing.

  1. efranz13 says:

    Great post! THX 🙂

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