My sister is a complete opposite of who I am, she is more like dad and I am more like mom and since mom and dad have nothing in common sis and I were bound to be different. She belongs to this ‘old is gold’ school of thought, like those conservatives who think everything new, particularly in the field of technology, is a conspiracy to spoil the nation’s youth, those who whine over emails and are often lost in cheerful nostalgia about those beautiful days of hand written letters and pink envelopes carried by pigeons. (Good thing is she doesn’t think too highly of blogs either so chances are she wouldn’t be reading this)
So sometime back she had put this youtube video (which she thought was funny, I didn’t and I am writing this post to tell you why) on her facebook profile and asked me to see. [Link to the video]
I told you she belongs to the old school. So the video was a terrible take on Twitter. It said Twitter is for people who are self centered exhibitionist who only want to flaunt their extra ordinary life style. That, on Twitter people think they are talking but they are actually are not talking because no body is listening, that even though you think you are keeping in touch with your friends and telling them what you are doing all the time, truth is those on Twitter have no friends.
I totally hated the video which my sister loved enough to share it with her facebook friends. So I asked her, very cautiously lest we pick up a fight, “Why don’t you see Twitter as sharing? Everybody likes to share, didn’t you want to share the video, wouldn’t you be happy if more people saw what you shared and may be agreed with you, or even disagreed but reacted in some way?” She said, “No, I didn’t want to share it with the whole world, I only wanted to share it with you and some close friends, and probably post it on my profile only to give an idea to visitors about what I think of Twitter.”
It doesn’t matter to her whether people at large know what she thinks of Twitter but it does matter whether her close friends and family know. She being a private person is against the idea of putting her whole life out there in front of the world nonetheless she too once in a while feels like reaching out to very close friends through facebook.
Ultimately, she is restricting the use of social media but she is still using it.
Same is true for Twitter, you need not necessarily be sharing your updates with the whole world. You can choose to keep only your family in your timeline, you can privatize your updates so that random strangers don’t read them. You choose who follows you and who you follow.
This is true for most social media sites. You cannot generalize the usage of Twitter or any other social media tool for that matter in big square boxes. There are tons of creative users out there using these tools for various purposes. I’ll talk about Twitter specifically, not every body who tweets, do it for the same reasons as others. Not every body tweets the same information either. Sure, there are some people who are exhibitionist, who tweet to flaunt their extra ordinary life; sure there are some very lonely people who tweet only because they don’t have real friends to call or text. But that’s not everybody.
Is Twitter about exhibitionism?
I don’t tweet for any one of the above reasons but for all of the above. Sometimes I really want to flaunt, so I would tweet something which in my opinion would make me look very intelligent and cool and then I would want my followers to read my tweets and be jealous or be in awe. But sometimes I don’t care if somebody is reading my tweet or not, sometimes I just want to tweet to keep a record of my own random thoughts. If I don’t tweet they’d be lost.
But that’s what journals are for, isn’t it? If you don’t care if people read or not then why do you tweet instead of writing your thoughts in a private journal?
Because while I don’t always care if people read or not, I wouldn’t mind if they do. I don’t have a problem with people reading what I am doing. One might be comfortable sharing their life with a few close people; I am comfortable sharing it with thousands of them why should that be a problem? Why should they label me as some sort of ‘dishonorable exhibitionist’ just because I am comfortable in sharing?
Through Twitter we really do connect to somebody somewhere, no matter how insignificant that may seem, it still matters.
For example I came across this really funny page called Uncyclopedia. I wanted to share it with my friends as well as with the world at large. So I tweeted about it and also wrote a mail to few of my close friends. Half of them either didn’t read or read but didn’t care to reply and those who did reply did so only after two days. By that time my enthusiasm was lost.
But on Twitter a random stranger read it and responded immediately with equal enthusiasm. Then we exchanged a few @each other tweets over the topic. I don’t need to add him to my life as a friend right away, I don’t need to have him on my Gtalk or exchange numbers, he continues to be a stranger but for one tiny topic, for few insignificant moments our minds did connect and that means a lot. Some of us essentially live in the moment.
It’s not true that I don’t have real friends, of course I do, I have a great family too but not all of them would be interested in all of my pursuits so I don’t have the enthusiasm to share everything with them, but of the 1200+ odd followers on Twitter at least one of them would be interested in one or the other of my pursuits. So it helps to tweet rather than call or text the close friends.
Also, even if my friends replied to my mail immediately with equal enthusiasm there’s a limit to how many mails I can write to how many friends in a day. Pretty soon I would be called a spammer. No body wants unsolicited mails on their inbox but with Twitter — hey they asked for it by choosing to follow me.
Twitter is not really just about what you are doing
I was watching this really cool interview with Abhay Deol on NDTV and I randomly tweeted it. In few seconds I got a reply from a follower thanking me for the ticker, he had promptly switched on the TV and was able to catch the interview.
Now, I had no idea what this friend / follower was doing on a Saturday evening, no idea if he was a fan of Abhay Deol or not, no idea if he was at all in front of the TV so of course there’s no question of me calling him up and telling “hey am watching this interview”. A call was pointless, but my tweet was relevant to him.
Similarly I would never know which tweet is relevant to which of the 1200+ followers I have but I still would like to think that I am giving out information that is worthful to somebody or the other out there.
Exchange of information, breaking news, first hand account of major events are some of the most popular usage of twitter presently. Besides which twitter is also used as a place to broadcast yourself, like a quick shout to the world. Say you have a blog, every time you publish a new post you tweet the link. People get a reminder so they’ll visit the blog. Following somebody on twitter is easier than following blog RSS feeds or email subscriptions.
Most regular twitters also use it as random group chat on various topics ranging from funny to weird.
Twitter is now being used by celebrity to talk about themselves, connect to their fans, promote their new films/shows/books etc. With Indian celebs joining twitter and very actively tweeting and replying to their fans, twitter has revolutionized how we view our icons and how we communicate with them. While Gul Panag tweets to share her life with the fans at a more earthly and friendly level, Mallika Sherawatuses it as a fan mail central where she basically waves back to the fan frenzy. They both are very communicative yet we don’t see the fans (baring a few) asking redundant repetitive questions like “Are you dating your co-actors?” On twitter, we respect our stars more because we get to see their human side sans the glitter.
About more usages, I’ll just say, as many users, as many usages. Twitter is like talking, can we make a list of usages of our ability to talk?
Twitter and ‘privacy’
I don’t understand this argument about ‘privacy’ around Twitter. Some people have this nasty habit of giving one weird look up and down your person and express silent disgust when they find out that you would happily tweet about how great was the sex you had last night. They say, “don’t you have a sense of privacy?” Then there are some people who would shudder at the very mention of any thing about their private life going online whether via tweets or blogs (Must add, many such men are living under the constant fear of me disclosing all about their private lives someday).
Pray why is privacy always surrounded by a cloud of insecurity? What is so horribly wrong with our private lives that it must be kept a secret? What is it that we are so embarrassed of?
I once tweeted one morning how the sex last night was good and my man asked me why I tweeted about such personal stuff. He clarified he was only asking and didn’t have a problem with it, but still I wondered, why not? What is the big deal about a private tweet? You can tweet about the great movie you saw, the great dinner you had, but not the great sex. Eating and movie going are not part of your personal life? You can say you are feeling low, depressed, bored, but you can’t say you are feeling horny. At one time or the other we all are bound to feel horny but we won’t say it. Funny.
In conclusion, I would only say to the conservatives that twitter is NOT a conspiracy to spoil the youth, it is NOT a conspiracy to make us robots or retards its just one of the many things that we get excited about, use, explore and then be done with. So relax, don’t sweat too much on the negative implications of twitter overdose.
Crossposted on Desicritics