Is Twitter a highway to nowhere?

     The question here is that talking about Twitter on Twitter might be a lot of fun, and that’s okay. But if Twitter is to be taken as a serious medium, where are you going on the Twitter highway? Are you delivering any fresh content, whether it be recipes or philosophical musings? A large amount of social media seems to be navel gazing, recursive discussion of social media discussing itself. This resonates across all forms of social media in different but related ways. I focus here on Twitter as it is my preferred type of social media.

     In the early 1960’s Marshall McLuhan had many remarkable and prophetic insights in the fields of communication. Among these was the concept that media was as or more important than the content it delivered, summed up in the famous statement ‘the medium is the  message’. He had many startling conclusions which don’t seem quite as strange to us now as they did then, although a few still are a little unsettling. For example, he said the effect of television as a medium was the same whether it was delivering children’s shows, or reports on violent crime. 

     So on Twitter, is it just the  tweet that’s important? Or, as I hope, does the content still have some meaning. Twitter can be a road leading somewhere. As a tool for businesses to analyze their brand and communicate with their customers, as a means for people to mobilize for social causes and charities, as a way to find people with shared interests for discussion and involvement.

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17 Responses to Is Twitter a highway to nowhere?

  1. ludovicah says:

    Everybody uses Twitter differently I feel. Very few users tweet in the same way. I have used Twitter to make new friends, especially in California (I live in UK)and, as an aspiring writer I have learned so much from the people I have been in contact with.I have found connections to people I would never have been able to contact or discover in any other way. Hopefully I provide interesting content or at least some sort of encouragement to others, and have learned to distinguish a lot of really good people in the great Twitter throng.
    Twitter is an incredible tool and to be honest I still think many of those using it are not using it as effectively as they could do, but then, I suppose you get out as much as you put in, like most things in life!

    • booksbelow says:

      My main use of twitter has also become the making of new friends of similar interests from all over the world that I would otherwise never have met. I try to keep a balance between social tweeting, tweets pointing to interesting content I either find online or am RTing, and my own humble thoughts on various matters. Thanks for your thoughts, they are much in tune with mine, I think.

  2. Great post, Roger. Diarrhea of the tweet stream can certainly be a problem, but adding value to a follower’s mind is the Pepto of Twitter-itis. There are certain tweeters I watch more closely than others because I know without a doubt they will inform, add humor, and basically brighten my day. You’re one of them.

  3. Ct Kingston says:

    Greetings Roger,

    “Life is a highway I want to ride it all night long.”
    Do you know that horrible hit song from a decade ago or so?

    Maybe Twitter will become a horrible hit song a few decades from now. (?)

  4. Ct Kingston says:

    Cool graphic Roger. Reminds me of that song,
    “We go riding on the freeway in a pink cadillac of love…”

    Or however that song goes. Except it’s a little green car 🙂

  5. Danny Brown says:

    It should most definitely always be the content, mate. Even “meaningless” content means something to someone. It’s the spammers that can eat my shovel 🙂

  6. booksbelow says:

    Agreed. But if the content is constantly about the medium it gets a little incestuous!

  7. Oh my God – you nailed it. So many people on Twitter talk about the medium ad nauseam. That, and how to monetize the medium. But I don’t think that’s going away. Not everyone can have something interesting to say – so they say the safe things. Which, in this case, is what most of the other people say. Misery loves company and all that.

    • booksbelow says:

      Thanks, Jim. I felt somewhat hypocritical talking about people talking about the medium which is really just talking about the medium too. It’s a vicious cycle! Hard to get off that circular road! 🙂

  8. Slickriptide says:

    That is what happens when you die, that is what happens when he dies and that is what happens when they die. It’s all very personal.

    I quote Beetlejuice to make a bit of a zen-style point about Twitter – My twitter is not the same as yours. In fact, everyone’s individual twitter is so highly personalized that one can’t really talk about Twitter from a meta-standpoint except in the most general of ways.

    I’m scratching my head a bit about the topic of today’s blog entry, because in “my” Twitter, hardly anyone talks “about” Twitter except to comment on the quality of the service. The closed circle of twitterati tweeting about tweeting doesn’t exist.

    I’ve come to realize that I’m a bit of an oddball in the Twitter world. For me, Twitter is 100% about the social aspect. I don’t give a damn about having a million followers, creating “klout” as a maven or blogger, or building a brand. I don’t even know who most of my followers are, let alone how many I have from day to day.

    The people in my tweetstream are the people who enjoy a good conversation, whether it’s frequently or infrequently.

    I point this out to make the point that anyone seeing a tweetstream full of chatter about chattering is seeing it because they themselves are interested in tweeting about twitter and they’ve surrounded themselves with like-minded people.

    This is hardly surprising when you notice that bloggers tend to read and publicize the work of fellow bloggers, and the mavens tend to follow and encourage their fellow mavens. The big thing they have in common with their peers is the communications network they all use; to, wit – Twitter itself.

    Never mind the circus of “social media experts” who make it their business to be “mavens of Twitter”. That’s a closed circle if I ever saw one.

    I guess the point I’m making is that what any individual sees as “Twitter” is really his or her own personal vision of the service. Trying to generalize it to be the common experience all users is a mistake.

    Any “birds eye view” of Twitter has to be one that accounts for the fact that talking about Twitter is like talking about religion. Two people can both say “Yeah,I’m a Christian” but when you drill down to their individual views, you discover they have completely different, even incompatible, views of what that actually means.

    My twitter doesn’t lead anywhere except to a couple of hours of distraction from ennui and, in the end, the formation of some new friendships. My twitter doesn’t analyze or depend on “content”. Someone else’s twitter might depend heavily on both receiving and delivering “content” because that person’s satisfaction comes from somewhere other than socializing. I couldn’t care less about twitter as anything more than a unique kind of chat room. That other person would care greatly about it’s direction, efficiency and usefuleness in delivering a message and holding the attention of the recipients of that message.

    In a nutshell, it’s all relative. Don’t sweat it. Or at least don’t forget that while you’re sweating about one thing, someone else is looking from a different angle at the same service and sweating about some other facet of it that you probably wouldn’t ever consider noteworthy. You both see the hologram but the details of what you see and how it affects you are different thanks to each viewing it from your own personal angle.

  9. booksbelow says:

    Agreed, I wrote a blog about it recently you can see in my blog list above recently “Which Twitter are You Using?”

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