Saturday, 1 March 2014

Twitter - useful tool or self indulgence?

Must admit to being hugely frustrated by what I consider to be the misuse of a communication tool which, in its purest form, is a great way to expedite information and news. I'm talking about Twitter.

A recent Pew Research survey indicates that 73% of online adults now use a social networking site of some kind. The predominant platform is still Facebook, but the use of Twitter and other platforms has seen significant growth. In fact, 42% of online adults use multiple networking sites. The Pew Research claimed Twitter had an online adult following of 18%; in November 2010 this figure was 8%. Not surprisingly, internet users in the age group 18-29 are the most likely to use Twitter.

Like most social networking sites, Twitter is used primarily as a communication tool. 'Tweets' of 140 characters or less are posted as frequently as the user chooses, and the communication shared may range from the useful to the outright dull, narcissistic and downright boring.

Twitter has great value as a news feed source; asking questions and receiving answers; socialising (although Facebook is still the preferred platform for 'real' friends communicating with each other); offering recommendations for business, articles, events etc and for simply acting as a time-filler or distraction.

So...why the frustration? I understand that in a fast-paced world we need to disseminate information quickly; we need to alert others in our professional field of events or current information that may impact business decisions or directions. I also understand that young people communicate in a totally different way now than previous generations, and that what is important to them may fall into the category of narcissistic or boring to others of a different generation.

I use Twitter rarely, and purely for the purpose of forwarding what might be considered interesting or relevant material to my network. I am absolutely certain no-one is interested in the milk being 'off' and my tummy churning all day; or that I am about to head off and do a workout at the gym. Might work if I was 19, but not now...I am a 'grown up'!

So why did two recent 'tweets' trigger this article? Paraphrased, 'about to play a game of backyard tennis' and 'packing a dress to head off to the Oscars'.......and this interests me, how? Yes, shows there's personality beyond profession, but really, this kind of information-sharing from professionals, not 19-year-olds, seems to add weight to the idea that perhaps we are all at risk of becoming a little too self-important.

We often criticise the 'younger generation' for being too self-indulged and self-focused. Maybe it's not just the young? If adults are guilty of believing that everyone should be interested in what we ate for breakfast, what chance do we have of teaching our kids that the world does not revolve around them? That self-promotion does not equate with being self-motivated and resilient?

There is great value in social networking as a quick and easy way to communicate without long-winded emails or phone calls....although I must admit to preferring the traditional 'face to face' or 'voice to voice' methods of communication over the modern, somewhat sterile versions. However, it seems some training in self-discipline when communicating a 'stream of consciousness' might not go astray.

Maybe I'm old, but I found great delight in Split Strategy blogger Mat Fitzgerald's claim that "mindless broadcast and promotion via Twitter has absolutely zero alignment with what people (real people) are on Twitter for."

By all means go to the Oscars and be excited about it, go and play backyard tennis if you want - but do we really need to tell everyone about it?

Photo credit: Gavin Llewellyn via photopin cc