Things I’ve learned about Twitter

I love Twitter.  I must admit I’m a bit of an addict.  Like people sitting in front of a poker machine, pushing the button continuously hoping the the next roll will give them a reward, I hope that every refresh will give me a piece of interesting news, something exciting, something to disseminate immediately.

But twitter is also a free for all.  It’s a global school yard.  As with any school yard of millions of people it will have its share of bullies, and nasties.   It will also have the cliques.  The kids of hang around because they feel special because they are good at school and feel above others, or they are nerdy, or good at sport.

So what have I learned participating in twitter?  Here are some observations.

Twitter is a no place to have an argument

Many times I’ve seen seemingly innocuous tweets create a firestorm of bitterness and anger in a couple of exchanges, leaving two previously happy twitters bitter and anger and blocking each other.  The thing is that any disagreement, or any involved emotion cannot be effectively conveyed by typing through a computer with 140 characters.  We have evolved to exchange opinions, emotions etc. using lots of queues.  Our faces, the tone of our voice. These are absent when communicating through the web.  Add that you can only exchange information in 140 characters and all this argument is done in public where it can be seen by potentially hundreds of people and this could all be a recipe for disaster.

Personally when I enter that situation I employ the Psychology 101 tactics to never use ‘you’ and use ‘I’.  So instead of saying ‘You are such a bully’ I would write ‘I feel being bullied here’  In the first instance I would be attacking someone, labeling them as a ‘bully’.  This would most likely provoke an angry response to deny they are a bully (or whatever) and create a retaliation (i.e. ‘I am not a bully, but you are an idiot’ or something like that)  We can see here that if we arrive at this point then it’s all over.  The second response is still risky, but in this case you are not describing the person but their behavior.  Hopefully the person you are responding to would read that as ‘You are not a bully, but the way you are behaving at the moment I feel like I am being bullied’.  This most likely would create a response such as “no you are wrong, I am not bullying you’.  We are still in dangerous territory here, but then you can go somewhere with it and say something ‘Sorry I perceived like that – but I’m glad we cleared the air’.  So the other person is aware that their twitting created a negative response but the exchange can continue.

Most likely though my twitter radar would scream ‘Danger Danger’ and leave any nasty exchange as soon a possible.  I would just create a ‘Let’s agree to disagree’ position, and leave the subject.  As I say, for me twitter is no place to exchange or explain different ideas or positions.

Leave and let Live

I don’t follow on twitter people with outlooks different to mine.  So no Liberal supporters, racists, xenophobes, sexist and mysoginists and soccerphobes.  Twitter is mainly a fun activity.  I don’t need my timeline to be filled with stuff that irritates me.

But there are people on twitter that I agree 95% of the time, but I also disagree with in some cases.  For instance, rightly me and my lefty twitter followers were appalled at the way Gillard was treated.  But it seems to me that there is a group of twitteres that have elevated the cult of Julia to disturbing heights.  Saying that she made mistakes can be open to accusations of mysoginy. So I don’t engage.

Related to that is that I’ve seen some left twitters being quite nasty and sexist towards Julia Bishop.  I know that I should employ the Lieutenant General David Morrison standard of ‘The standard you walk past is the standard you accept”, but again  see above. Telling someone off twitter is not a really good place to argue and debate a point.  Other things include the phurphy that Abbott is being fed what to say in interviews because he’s wearing an earpiece, when it’s clear that when not in the studio that is the way he can hear the interviewer question.  When I said that to some lefty tweeters they resolutely refused to believe me.

Usually an ‘unfollow’ is the extent of showing my disapproval.

The cliques

I would guess most of people on twitter would follow some ‘famous, people. And by famous I don’t mean necessarily mega famous like Katie Perry or One Direction.  My famous people would include journalists and comedians who have been on the telly.  Of course I don’t follow them (why should they?) although strangely Annabel Crabb and Mike Carlton do, and I am really chuffed by this. (although I do wonder what they think about my incessant tweets about soccer and occasional dad jokes).

But in the main it is interesting how ‘celebrities’ ignore the common folk and just respond to their kin.  So for instance we would have, let’s say a woman journalist which usually conducts a national current affair program after the news asking a question or make a general observation in twitter. Many people respond, but she only tweets back to other colleagues, or people ‘who are well known’.  I also see this amongst comedians.  Someone says I am going to do show ‘x’ and a few fans respond positively, but it is only the other comedians that are tweeted back. Interestingly print journalist are much more likely to engage. Maybe they don’t have the ‘wow’ factor of being on the telly?

I don’t really bemoan this. I know that that certain woman journalist is inundated by tweets by loonies who accused her to be a secret agent for one or the other party just because she is doing her job.  The comedians may be unable to respond to everyone personally, so they concentrate and stay nice to people they actually will meet or work with.  My observation is how twitter is reflecting real life.  Like when I used to go to end of year functions at work with the exortation for everyone to mingle, only for the managers sticking together.  It’s a natural feeling that we congregate and feel more comfortable with people similar to us and twitter reflects that.  The only thing is that we can see it in action.

The quick followers and unfollowers

Because I tweet about many things I get people following me that I think: “they going to be unfollowing me tomorrow” and I’m usually right.  I don’t know if other tweeters have a similar experience.  In addition I also tweet in Italian, so some Italian tweeter follows me only to see undecipherable tweets about Q&A and Australian politics.  Or I may say something nice about a subject that I rarely mention and I get a follow which I know is not going to last.  For example the other day I tweeted that it was cruel to get a pig into the cricket the other day. Then I got some animal rights people/group following me, and I know they will defollow soon (and rightly so).  I usually follow back, but at least I try to read the spiel and some of their tweets before I do.  It seems that some tweeters agree with one tweet and. Immediately follow. 

The most funny follows is when I happen to tweet something critical of the ALP or the Greens (which I have done) and some right wing person follows me. Poor things.

Then I get the strangest follows. An ice cream parlour in New York, a politician in the USA. I suspect thai would be some scheme to bolster your image in web browsers or something using some ‘bot’?

Twitter beware

As I said at the beginning twitter is heaps of fun, but we must be careful about it.  Being free to everyone it attracts both the best, and the worst of people.  As I say it’s like a huge playground, and like a playground we need to be careful who we engage with, who can we trust and be realistic that we may not be friends with the popular guys.  The great thing for me is that unlike my real experience of school bullying no one can actually hit me and if they are nasty I can defollow and block them. 

I wish I could have done that at Crows Nest Boys High School.

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