Thoughts on Twitter: How it's Ruining your Communication

Just looking once again at Twitter - I've been using it on and off for some time, but never really got to grips with it to be honest. Seeing as we have a seminar coming up soonish where I'm going to be talking about it I thought I'd best polish my knowledge a little!

I'm not a huge fan of it, but think this is part of a much bigger issue over the choices you make online and the different types of personalities out there. I'm pretty sure what we're seeing with things like Twitter is the people who like to be the centre of attention finding a new way to monopolise the conversation, rather than some new sort of demoncracy of communication - but that's a big argument, and not one I was planning on getting into now. What interested me looking back at this issue again was what had happened to the 'standard' communication channels once someone switches more to Twitter.

I had noticed that the emails (what I would call 'standard' communication) I was receiving from a certain third party had practically disappeared, and was half wondering whether or not the University spam filters were having their wicked way with them, but just checking into the same third parties Twitter stream and sure enough there's loads going on. What they've done is move practically all their communication to Twitter. Now I don't remember getting any info in an email to suggest that this was going to be the policy from now on, and I'm pretty confident that it never made it to an official policy status, but instead just became something they do. It's that bandwagon thing again. But it makes me wonder just who else has moved from emails, newlestters, even RSS, to Twitter as their major communication channel. I wouldn't be surprised if many more homepages are remaining dormant, and drop boxes empty.

The thing with all these forms of communication is that they are asynchronous. Yes they make be close in time, but they're still not happening at the same time. We don't have the tech yet to do that (i.e. have written communications online interjectable in mid flow). With all these techs we deliver we really have very little idea who's listening. Yes we can see numbers, read feedback, study statistics, but at the end of the day that will only give us a very small picture of the reality of our audiences. Ask any teacher and they will tell you, it's the quiet ones you have to watch ... and we can't see the quiet ones online.

So what am I saying? Just that we need to adopt these tools understanding that they are an addition to what we already do, not a replacement. If you try to replace what you use you are liable to be losing more than you know, and you will become so wrapped up in your own hype and the sprial of perceived greatness that you'll never spot you're only ever talking to those who want to listen, preaching to the converted. The web is a wonderful tool for connecting, but many modern tools are instead creating silos of interest, wrapping people up in their own special areas that reward and promote without critical evaluation. Interesting times for sure, but perhaps dangerous times as well. I'm sure this subtle issue is growing, and it's one we will need to keep an eye on as the web permeates more and more of our lives.

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