Thoughts on Twitter

Matthew Moore, 3/2/14

The rapid and widespread popularity of Twitter has never ceased to amaze me. I acknowledge that it is a platform for wide-spread communication of ideas from one person to another person who could be many miles away they will never meet. I have never understood though how conversations on Twitter work though. I have been told that it is a veritable platform for communication and that people have had long and fulfilling talks with others via Twitter, but I do not know how they do it.

Over the last month I have been trying to address people in my intended future field, writing and English, via Twitter, but I have been unsuccessful. I know that I cannot honestly expect everyone I tweet to look at and address every tweet that they receive. Some of them clearly don’t respond to anyone other than friends, and I must admit, I am the same way. I would send out tweets to various Professors and others that seemed to be in the writing filed, but I was only meant with a torrent of silence.

As I was tweeting though I began to notice a number of things that kept bothering me as I was trying to compose my messages and find new people to address. First off, I was spending a bizarre amount of time composing these tweets as opposed to any of the other tweets I was doing. Most tweets took me less than a minute to bring them to a point that I was satisfied to shoot them off to whomever their target was, if anyone. But for these tweets, it would take me at least several minutes to settle on a message I thought was adequate enough to send.

I suppose the key idea that kept popping into the back of my head while I was writing to these people was, what are the rules? In face to face social conversations, I am well acquainted with the rules; stand a respectable distance away, don’t raise your voice except for emphasis, maintain eye contact, ect. Talking on the internet though, I was completely clueless. How long am I supposed to wait for a response? How formal or informal should I be with someone I have not met? What is a casual topic to start conversation with? There just too many things I simply did not know. This lack of knowledge of how to speak online threw me completely off and I can’t help but feel as though it negatively influenced my ability to speak online. This is bizarre to me.

I myself have written about how it is supposedly easier to speak online that off, and yet here I found myself stifled. Without proper knowledge of what the community’s rules are I was paralyzed and unable to speak effectively to others. Normally I would have tried to learn the rules through observation, but I did not notice a significant amount of conversations while I used Twitter. I suppose I just did not have a conversation focused experience with Twitter, and as such there was nothing I could observe.

I feel bad about this to be honest, as I’m unable to comment on how to represent yourself for twitter in a positive or a negative light. I suppose I could make a comment on the importance of learning the rules of any online community you engage with, but that would feel hollow without any advice to give. Perhaps there are no uniform rules across Twitter and it is more dependent upon who you speak to on Twitter. If you know the person then, I suppose you should speak to them there the same way you would respond to them in real life. If you’re addressing a person you aren’t familiar with, try to remain respectful. I’m sorry I can’t add anymore to that. 

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