What twitter feels like

[tweetmeme source=”mariansteiner” only_single=false]

standing in the middle of the busiest crossroads in a giant virtual metropolis.
pedestrians swarming in from all sides, the rush of traffic and bustle of activity seems overwhelming.
it’s almost impossible to know what to do, where to go, who to talk to, even what to tell them.
everyone’s articulating random thoughts about anything and nothing in particular, appearing from and disappearing into the overwhelmingly anonymous mass of “individualities”, all seemingly on their way to somewhere, their thoughts apparently mattering to someone.

everyone seems to be passing by, ignoring hesitant bystanders (or those who are just being polite).
making (and breaking) contact within seconds…

this is what social media could feel like to a polite person, such as you and me, i suppose.

we don’t “steal in” an on-going conversation. we wait till the person speaking has finished making their point, acknowledge it, and react, if inspired, with a reply, expecting the same respect from everyone else. we take time to make friends. get to know people gradually, making choices as to who we spend time with, knowing it could be very precious.

virtual conversation, on the other hand, may feel very different. it has no beginning or end. there’s neither a clear number of participants, nor a set topic, not even a clear idea who you’re talking to. there’s no restricted time or space, there are no obvious conversational ‘turns’ in which an outside contribution would be appropriate.

for a person generally considered polite, all this could seem a little too chaotic, impersonal, and rude. this ‘netiquette’ may seem harsh, but is unavoidable. it’s a specific way in which we communicate ideas and talk with each other, for a special medium.

the most important skill for the 21st century is learning how to survive in the middle of the busiest crossroads in a virtual metropolis. learning to distinguish in that mass what’s important and what isn’t. learning to discern the ideas that matter from those that don’t. learning who to listen to and what to ignore without guilt.

after a while, individualities start emerging from the obscure mass. people who provide wonderful inspiration, motivation, encouragement are indeed there: those who don’t follow the main direction of the crowd, but stand their ground unassumingly, respectfully and naturally, creating a spot entirely genuine and pleasant.

that such people are available with no restrictions of time, distance, or politics, is one of the most fantastic things about the Internet.

no matter that you’re ignored or talking to no one in particular. we’re all chirping our way through to the ears that might listen.

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14 Comments on “What twitter feels like”

  1. It is such a fascinating world.
    The Following and unfollowing game on Twitter was the most disturbing for me:)
    Good post Marian, I like it very much!!!

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    • I’m so glad to find your comment, Mirella. Our conversation earlier on your post about this little game inspired me to articulate these feelings into a post. I felt I needed to adapt to a completely new way of communicating and I realised it is a fascinating area to consider in language learning as well (says the English teacher in me:)).
      Wonderful to hear form you and I hope you enjoyed your weekend hike!

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  2. I love how you keep your post simple, authentic with geniune feelings!

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  3. geekmissy says:

    I think this sums up my experience of Twitter perfectly :)

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  4. It’s great to know I’m not the only one who feels completely overwhelmed by the Twittersphere :)

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    • Hope it’s getting better by the day:)
      I’ve been using Twitter for two weeks solely as a tool for finding ELT insporation and there’s been way too much of it – certainly more than I can ever manage to absorb:P But that alone perfectly justifies all of its seeming flaws. Well, to me at least;)

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  5. Nicely put Marian, and you stream of consciousness style neatly depicts the random conversation flows, no rhyme, no reason sometimes but yes, faces do begin to gain focus and some voices you can almost hear

    It’s a great experience and I love the way it has changed my way of learning and sharing my learning and I’m finding it great, talking to strangers and making friends with people I may never actually meet face to face but with whom an affinity grows stronger daily.

    Marisa

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    • What a lovely comment, Marisa. I can only nod in agreement reading your feelings.

      The past two weeks feel amazing. I started using Twitter in a focused way and feel so amazingly enriched that I can only compare it to the times at university, when inspiration, creativity and people around me felt similarly stimulating. I’ve gained so much, got in touch with so many fascinating people, you included, that I really feel my teaching and personal experience has been influenced in a very positive way.

      And as you so well said, in spite of the digital nature of this medium, there is a kind of affinity developing that feels really wonderful.

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  6. Richard says:

    Thanks! What a great read, sums it up very well.

    I’ve found I just got used to it all and became rather blase about what I was doing. I often forget to reply or fail to notice other people’s responses because everything is going so fast. I think the answer is not to care too much and not to take anything too personally.

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    • Glad you enjoyed it! Agree with your comment, there certainly is a point when the best thing to do is let it all go and start taking it practically. The best thing about such attitude is that it brings even more rewards. It’s not about immediacy of personal contact, but immediate sharing, after all.

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  7. Very well put. You captured the essence of Twitter and social media in general. Great post.

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