Am I falling out of love with 140 characters of less?

Twitter has always been my social platform of choice. For a time I was a heavy advocate of it’s wonders and how brilliant the interactions and insight it gave me were. But over the past months I feel I’ve entered the online equivalent of the Seven Year Itch (everything happens quicker in digital….).

For me Twitter has stopped being THE platform I want to interact on. This doesn’t mean I’ve turned my back on it or feel the relationships I’ve forged on there are redundant, but it’s the intensity and frequency of what I label ‘redundant’ Tweets that have put me off.

Let me clarify – and there is an element of ‘pot and kettle’ to my statements as I’ve been guilty of posting more than enough ‘redundant’ Tweets. I classify a redundant Tweet as something that doesn’t need to be shared with the world, e.g. ‘I just went to the shop and bought some milk'; ‘I just stubbed my toe and it hurt!'; ‘I just went to the loo’. These are factoids that I don’t really need, or want, to know. I also don’t really want to see entire conversations between people I follow/follow me, especially as most of these seem to gravitate towards fashion, celeb, or what’s on TV at that time (although that has saved me once when I wanted to watch a BBC2 comedy and forgot it was on until I looked at my feed). This has made Twitter feel like a very crowded room in which Tweets get lost and self importance is king. I wouldn’t stay in that sort of room in real life, and sadly now feel the same in the virtual world.

Now before you dismiss me for being a grumpy git, I am not knocking Twitter. I am still an advocate of it, but only if used in the right way. For example, my points above will suit a number of people who want to use Twitter for that means; this blog post is coming from the point of view of a man whose needs and wants have changed.

One area that suits me, and is where Twitter comes into its prime, is as an aggregated, live, citizen journalism news feed. Just looking at how Twitter’s been used in the recent Egyptian unrest is a testament to how it enables people to communicate live, on the ground, where other news sources can’t. Another example is the London student riots that broke stories before 24 hour scrolling news did – in fact, the major news channels (thinking of BBC here) now report Tweets as news (although not always correctly). A blog post just doesn’t have the speed an impact of 140 characters or less.

You could argue that I’m ‘in with the wrong crowd’ on Twitter, and to some extent I’d agree with you, but I’ve met some amazing people on Twitter and have loved interacting with them and even met up with a few in something called “Real Life”. And long may this continue (just look at my Follow Fridays list for some amazing people to follow).

I’ve also moved some of these relationships over to Facebook where I feel I get more out of my personal relationships and interactions. But I should mention that I also fell out of love with Facebook over a year ago and like the turncoat/prodigal son I am I’ve gone back to it with a bunch of flowers and an apologetic smile. Yes, fickle does spring to mind.

I love social media, but platforms are there for different uses. I mean, the virtual world would be boring if everything was the same and new platforms are always popping up to upgrade or replace the redundant (Myspace anyone?). And Twitter is not going anywhere. Research in 2009 said it was reaching it’s plateau of the hyper cycle. Yet reports in 2010/2011 show that although users are leaving in larger numbers, Tweets and interactions are increasing.

But the key to good communication is defining your message before communicating it. As a good friend of mine said to me today when I told him I was writing this post, once you’ve done it, it’s out there. Very true. As Billy Crystals character Harry Burns says in ‘When Harry Met Sally’, “Woop, it’s out there. It’s not like I can take it back”. He also said, “It is so nice when you can sit with someone and not have to talk”.

So please – think before you send that Tweet about that puddle you just stepped in.

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