Social Experience

Yesterday I found out that someone I followed on Twitter closed their account and left the platform for good. They weren’t a friend of mine, in fact I didn’t really know them at all. I’ve never met them and I have no knowledge of their life.

I’m sure this person had a good reason for leaving and, obviously it’s up to them what they do online. For them Twitter wasn’t really working out. In itself it’s a sharp reminder of how hard it is to put ourselves in other people’s shoes. We can’t even get inside the experience another person is having, let alone inside their head.

All I can really understand is my own experience and it’s a pretty roller coaster one at that. In this case the departure of the person in question has affected the way Twitter feels for me.

The loss of one person out of the hundreds I follow has made me think about what I value on Twitter. In reality the conversations I have are with a very small group of people. And that small group of people provides me with a rich set of varied experiences, each of which means something important to me.

I often think about a post-platform world, where I’m using little bits of everything to maintain conversations with the people that matter. I think it’s inevitable. But, for me, right now, Twitter is the sticking point in all of that visioning. In my life Twitter is a backbone of all the other services I use. I believe it has a more personal feel than anything else. But then maybe that’s just my experience.

What I do know is that the personal experience has been emphasised by one person’s departure and this disruption has made me revisit what I want out of all these social networks. It’s not a revelation, I’ve been thinking about where I should put my efforts for a while. But the logical clarity it’s brought is timely and useful.

So I’m going to do what I tell everyone else to do. I’m going to really think about what I get out of all these things. I’ve got no real criteria for judging things. There are no metrics. The business measurement of social media is actually pretty easy. But personal ROI, what is that? How can I apply critical thinking to something as personal as social experience?

I suppose the only way forward is socially. I’d love to know what you think. Have you considered what you’re doing on all these things? What you get out of it? Help!

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4 comments
  1. I’m missing that person who left Twitter. It won’t be the same without him. I think that I do understand why he left. I think that someone else with whom I’ve chatted for at least a couple of years might have left but for very different reasons. Twitter feels very different now to 3 years ago. I miss the light-hearted banter of those days when there were far fewer of us and it was more personal than corporations and brands and businesses. I miss the Saturday morning chatter about music with interesting people who now have far too many followers to have time for simple connecting through popular culture. There are 2 or 3 people from then who virtually never communicate with me now, and I do miss them. Some don’t tweet as much – maybe because they’re very busy or perhaps their bosses are online.
    There are certain tweets that I feel would be inappropriate in front of some followers, so I self-censor. I’m also careful not to set off Twitterstorms. There are things that I would like to say but I don’t because I think it might get picked up in the wrong way. Some days, I worry that I’m becoming very dull and over-sensible. Some days, I think I might revive one of my other Twitter identities and be the more light-hearted me.
    I decided a while ago that I would focus more on Twitter and Flickr.
    Facebook – I use sparingly, mainly to keep in touch with a couple of my oldest friends, connect with various museums etc, and to access some other things that need FB authorisation.
    G+ – might use more if other people I knew use it more, but I really dislike the way a minority of men are using it and have had to block a few. I recently heard something a hangout that was disrupted in a very unpleasant way that makes me more concerned.
    Linkedin: not sure how to use except to connect with people and to have my info in a place where I know people will look to find out more about the professional me.
    Instagram & Path don’t really work for me because I can only use free wifi when I’m out and that is still too difficult to find or use up here.
    Pinterest – I use sporadically but that is getting spoilt by people using it for textual material.
    Quora – I still haven’t worked out how to use and think I probably should. Some interesting people have found me and connected with me there.
    Diaspora – keep thinking I ought to join but have held off joining another network for now.

    Twitter still has the variety of people and the brevity of the messages makes it easier to follow lots of people & organisations (well over 1,600, currently). I use it as my main news service and to keep an eye on what’s happening in my sector as well as to connect with individuals. It is the only one that does what it does. I use it as the address I give strangers. Most of all, I use it because I have met the most wonderful and extraordinary people there, and I have met quite a few of the people with whom I converse there. I suppose Twitter is bound to feel different when the volume of people on it is so much higher than when I first started. FB is very different and I would rather not be there these days.

    (apologies for lengthy response)

    • Thanks, Janet. I always try not to self-censor on Twitter but I think it’s pretty much impossible for all but the most determined users. I am aware that my somewhat random style doesn’t do much in a business sense but I am generally pleased with the range of people following me. My challenge for now is to put more effort into my “corporate” accounts.

      Outside of Twitter my current favourites are Instagram and Pinterest (steeped in possibility), although I try to focus on LinkedIn too because I’m supposed to. 🙂

      I agree that Twitter has changed a lot, although I do think it has kept much of its soul. The fact that it ever had a soul says a lot about how different is it from so many other platforms.

  2. martinhowitt said:

    For me, Twitter *is* my online social experience. I don’t have a FB account, can’t get to grips with G+ in any significant way, haven’t looked at Pinterest or Path yet. There’s something about the 140 character limit that does it – take away that limitation and I stop reading (G+ for example) because my attention is limited.
    I use lists so I don’t miss tweets from the relatively small number of people that are really important to me. But generally these are people I know offline. Twitter only gets really special socially when you find people on there that become friends when you meet them offline.
    Yes, I use it for work stuff and keeping up with news etc, but I could do this other ways. It’s the people thing that matters.
    Unlike Janet I don’t self-censor much but I do find that people aren’t really very interested in the banal tweets 🙂 But I don’t care. They can always unfollow me if they like 🙂

  3. Thanks. I completely agree with the online/offline thing. This has been one of the most amazing things about Twitter for me.

    I personally don’t think that there is such a thing as a banal tweet. If anything, I find the endless posting of links to the same old articles about the same old things banal, whereas knowing what people are thinking and doing is fascinating. I guess that makes me different from “power users”.

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