The Changing Face Of Twitter

Dedicated to the memory of Greig (@RangersGreig)

A recent comment made by one of my followers on Twitter has prompted this article. The tweet said that Twitter has changed in the last twelve months and unfortunately I have to agree. In summary, the comment said that many people no longer chat meaning that the individual concerned now spends less time on the social media site. To me this is very disappointing as my interpretation of Twitter is a means of social interaction with people of all ages from different backgrounds and places.

Of course, that interpretation is way too simplistic but the one that is by far the most important to me. Reference to the Internet will reveal countless definitions of what social media means to different people. For example Wikipedia defines it as “media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable communication techniques. Social media is the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue”.

Increasingly, social media sites are being used for in-your-face marketing activities. To many, social media is today’s most transparent, engaging and interactive form of public relations as allegedly it combines real time content with the beauty of authentic peer-to-peer communication. Another thought on its meaning is that “social media is not about what each of us does or says, but about what we do and say together to communicate in all directions at any time”. One comment stated that “social media is communication channels or tools used to store, aggregate, share, discuss or deliver information within online communities” adding that “the focus is on interaction and relationships, not the almighty dollar”. Sadly the latter appears to have been lost on many users of Twitter with the plethora of marketing and self promotional tweets!

Looking at Twitter timelines today reveals a distinct lack of interactive dialogue at the expense of competition tweets, inane information about what people are watching on television, product promotions and an ever-increasing abundance of pornography or links to such sites. I really would like to know what any of the aforementioned have to do with social interaction. It’s hardly surprising that some users are moving away and using other sites which is unfortunate as Twitter is unique in its short message approach.

To me the beauty of Twitter is its immediacy when people you follow are online at the same time. It’s an opportunity to exchange pleasantries, enter into more in-depth conversation or simply enjoy light-hearted banter with friends and followers. There is nothing more uplifting than people popping up and saying hello and exchanging a few short messages but such exchanges are becoming a rarity. Part of the problem is seeing tweets from genuine people amidst the volume of marketing messages, quadrupled horoscope messages, self centred promotions and running commentaries on trash reality television programmes. Too many good people appear to be abandoning Twitter because of this ever-increasing trend.

Thankfully there is one saving factor, namely the direct message (DM) facility. I find myself conducting more and more conversations via this method simply to avoid the irritating timeline. Whilst this is an excellent means of chat, it does exclude others being in the conversation as by definition it is a one-to-one tweet. In reality it is always nice if others can join in a conversation hence the interactive part of what social media means to me. As previously stated some have deserted Twitter but thankfully there are some who stick with it and chat on an almost daily basis.

One such person was a young man named Greig who invariably popped up to greet me and ask about my health either on the public timeline or via DM. Whilst to some such a message may appear rather trite, to me it is both creditworthy and uplifting. It’s the small things in life that actually mean the most, and subsequently become the most missed. Sadly I referred to Greig in the past tense. No longer am I privileged to share the trials and tribulations of everyday life, and exchange a few jokes and banter with this lovely tweeter as tragically, he passed away on 14 November 2012. He had become far more than a casual acquaintance, as having shared so much through the medium of Twitter, he was classed as a friend. As such he is both a real loss to Twitter and to the many people he’s left behind who showed him the respect he justly deserved. Unfortunately too many people use Twitter to criticise others, pass judgement without knowing anything, and even resort to bullying, a subject that was covered in a previous blog.

Twitter is a worse place without the likes of Greig. Fortunately there are still others on my timeline who share his values and embrace Twitter for what it should be rather than for what it is becoming. Only by initiating conversation and interacting can the core values of Twitter be maintained. I now find myself muting so much irritating content from my timeline that I’m likely to miss the occasional interesting tweet that could stimulate new conversation. Perhaps it’s time for Twitter to reassess its purpose and instigate tighter controls to suppress pornography and self promotional tweeters. There are many alternative avenues for this stuff.

Hopefully my presence on Twitter will continue into the foreseeable future but my survival depends entirely upon people chatting. The untimely death of Greig has left a huge void as he embraced Twitter in the right way. Yes much of our chatting ended up via DM but for the reasons outlined above.

RIP Greig. It was indeed a real privilege to know you!