And so it’s just another day on Twitter….
It starts with the usual slew of Direct Messages from people thrilled that I am now following them, so thrilled in fact, that they can’t wait for me to also visit their website, buy their new self-published novel or contact them immediately if I have any questions at all about Internet marketing, social media, want lots more followers or am in need of personal development.
Most of the messages start the same way. “Thank you so much for following. Check out my….”
. I often wonder at the expertise of these online marketing experts who think that the best way to develop a new client is to whack them over the head with the sales pitch while they’re still shaking your hand during the introduction.
Even more are so excited that I am now following them on Twitter, they can’t wait for me to become their friend on Facebook and imagine, we only just met.
Twitter is one of many social media and a social media that has all but removed the ‘social’ part from the medium. People concerned about the fact you might be a bot require you to validate yourself before they are prepared to speak to you. These are people who don’t see the irony in using a bot to weed out potential bots.
Others send you automated DMs to express their deep appreciation for having the opportunity to get to know you. I gather what they really mean is they’re happy to have you increase their list of followers while you get to know their auto-reply bot.
These are people who somehow have come to believe that the best way to ‘sociaize’ is to automate the whole process. I guess they have forgotten how many of us are frustrated by those automated receptionists that ask us to press different menu options when we call some company or our governments.
It’s not all sweetness and light. Some are quite offended if you unfollow them and have software that sends out tweets telling the world that you have removed them from your list of followers, as if the world really cares. How sad a life do these people have that they are not only personally insulted that you are not following them any longer but that they are compelled to share that with the Twitterverse?
I have better things to do than to spend time every day checking my list of followers to see if someone had the audacity to unfollow me. Besides, their indignation has always puzzled me because I thought it was my list and I could put who I wanted on it. Apparently not.
Once we get through the housekeeping, it’s time to go out and and start browsing the current tweets.
The messages are many and varied but can usually be broken down into main categories: politics, selling and spam (which is more extreme selling), virus/hacking attachments, trivial and self-indulgent nonsense, the tragically profane trying to gain attention by shocking a world too jaded to be shocked by much, outrage, oppression-envy, humour and real conversations with people you have had an opportunity to get to know. The last two categories are the only reasons that I stay on Twitter.
Politics dominates Twitter and the great dichotomy is that most of the discourse is on the oppressive nature of government to the point where Twitter seems more like an episode of Angry Birds than social tweets. It is almost laughable how so many can be so hysterical about living under oppression even as they are free to voice that opinion and to openly criticize government. Try that in China or North Korea and see how far it takes you.
The right, when it isn’t busy trashing candidates within it’s own ranks gleefully attacks the left and any cause will do: environmentalism, activism, education, being a Democrat (or a Liberal, if you’re Canadian)
while the left pontificates with self-righteous indignation about the perfidity of the right. Occupy has simplified this somewhat. They simply hate everybody.
I’ve seen playground bullying with less verbal violence and more intelligent discourse.
Many younger people step up with painfully ill-informed opinions on everything from Internet regulation to social issues, toss out a quick opinion, set up a hash tag or two (just to see if they can get a trend going) and then move on to whatever next distracts their attention.
Woven through this tapestry of what passes for political debate and discussion are the sales pitches. Buy my book, click this link for a free gift, contact me for the secrets to better online marketing. The list is endless. Almost none of it is targeted, especially from the marketing gurus which begs the question, how much do most of these self-professed experts really know? It’s more like the old direct mail shotgun approach from the ‘70s than anything approaching a real understanding of this powerful still new online environment.
Every now and then an ‘egg’ pops up with a really great offer. These eggs usually follow almost no one and have no one following them but they’re happy to provide us with a link to get a great opportunity (for which they get a small commission). Considering how few people on Twitter are unaware of the spam nature of these folks, it’s amazing so many still buy into trying. I treat these tweets like the Whack-A-Mole game at the fair and just whack ‘em with the Spam report menu option. Some days there are so many, I try to see how many I can whack in 60 secs. My current record is 11.
People I don’t know and don’t follow, copy me on tweets they’ve sent to others, on topics in which I am not only uninterested but in which I have little to no knowledge. They become annoyed if I don’t reply and even more so when I do.
Some jump into conversations to which they weren’t invited to voice their opinion, usually rudely and become even more rude when their particular opinion isn’t considered the right opinion. Who needs this?
Some contact me to tell me I’m a idiot which may be a reasonable assessment while others tell me I’m a fascist in direct contradiction to the person before them who called me a socialist pig. Sometimes I get called a Liberal or a Conservative which apparently are two of the worst insults online, depending on which side of the political divide you embrace.
Fortunately, there are tweets by some who devote their time on Twitter to making others laugh or at least smile and I sincerely appreciate their efforts. Sometimes the humour is quite subtle, other times it is very in-your-face almost vulgar but it is almost always quite funny and usually makes me laugh out loud. Once, one of the messages was so funny, I spit my coffee on my keyboard and discovered that the quickest way to undermine technology is to expose it to moisture. I guess, technology is just like people, we all have our vulnerabilities.
But what keeps me coming back are the people I’ve met from all over the world, good people, interesting people and people who are reasonably well-informed about whatever it is they are interested in. I’ve had some great discussions and debates with these people bordering on the inane to the very serious. We haven’t always agreed but it has always been respectful, thought provoking and/or just plain fun.
It is these people who put the meaning in the word ‘social’ in social media.
These are the people who, while they may not share my opinions, share a desire to connect with others to learn, to understand and to satisfy our curiosities. These are also the people who, for the most part, remind me that not everyone in this world has lost their minds.
And here’s the thing I find most interesting.
It is these same people who remind me of what I learned in the real world, a world in which I have lived in many places both within my own country and internationally. People are people the world over. We have far more in common than we have that divides us. Too many forget that in places like Twitter where the primary buzz is usually against something or someone.
I learned some other things from my few short months on Twitter as well.
I’ve learned that there are an incredible number of frightened, insecure and even paranoid folks out there; people who fail to see the irony of living in a society with they are free to express their paranoid fear of their democratic governments.
I’ve learned that there are many people who because they can remain anonymous, lack the values or self-discipline to conduct themselves with respect for others or themselves.
I’ve learned that opinion is more important than fact to many and that there is a growing intolerance that our societies once had started to defeat before the Internet explosion.
I’ve learned that the herd mentality is alive and well with a majority of people only too willing to jump on a bandwagon without much prior thought and I’ve learned that stupidity and hypocrisy continue to thrive and spread faster than any computer virus.
I’ve also learned that there remains a lot of nice people in the world, people with values, morals, character and common sense.
It gives me cautious optimism that just perhaps, when the current madness no longer grips so many, we just may have a shot at making the world the better place most of us seem to want. We’re not going to get there through war, polarized opinion or stupidity but we just might if we remember those who understand that the true power of social media goes beyond merely shouting out opinions, demonizing those with whom we disagree or trying to turn places like Twitter into one large flea market.
We’re only going to get there thanks to the people who brought their values to social media rather than checking them at the log-in screen like too many others.
It is also those people who keep me coming back and I thank them for that. It is a pleasure to have met and to know them.
© 2012 Maggie’s Bear
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