Ode to Twitter

Ode to TwitterThere’s a lot of talk about the impending death of Twitter; “it’s got no money”, “there are too many spam accounts”; “there’s too much content”; there’s this, there’s that….

All of these things are of course true.

Yes, Twitter is running out of money, that’s no secret but I’m not going to get into that now because, well frankly, money…snore!

Yes, there are too many spam accounts on Twitter. Whether it’s eggs that don’t tweet, naked ladies posting pictures of their flesh, accounts that live to follow people only to unfollow them weeks later and or the trolls, Twitter can at times be an unpleasant, ingenuine place to be and it has damaged the user experience. But they are working on this. Their latest announcement of their advanced muting options, which now allow you to mute offensive words, phrases and emoji in your notifications and mentions so although it won’t stop the existence of bad Twitter users, it will make their impact less noticeable.

Yes, there is too much content. Sometimes going on Twitter can be like wading through the medieval streets of London in flip flops. Treading in other people’s crap left right and centre.

But let me tell you something….I personally don’t care. I love Twitter.

I love that it’s everybody’s dumping ground. Isn’t that why we fell in love with it in the first place?! Because we could dump our thoughts there. Don’t get me wrong, there is sharing and there is over sharing but I’ll tell you this that excessive dumping has given me something that I just don’t get from other social networks: a good laugh. In a world that sometimes makes you want to run for the hills, Twitter can be a source of unlimited joy.

Take the shambles that was Euro 2016. English football fans were left devastated, if unsurprised, about England’s early exit and, although they won’t admit it, by Wales’ disappointing defeat in the Semi-finals. But devastation quickly dissipated when a moth landed on Ronaldo’s face and within minutes endless numbers of ‘Ronaldo’s Moth’ Twitter accounts appeared.

Then there’s Brexit. Millions of people awoke one morning to realise half of the population had potentially thrown their country into turmoil. But it was ok because of the abundance of ‘Twitter bants’ we had to get us through it. Buzzfeed had an absolute field day with them offering us 36 of the best to make us ‘laugh despite everything’. Other lists of Brexit based hilarity can be found on the Poke, IBTimes and Yahoo and, well pretty much all over the internet.

The same goes for the mind blower that was the US election. When logic and reason had gone out the window, Twitter helped us laugh before we cried. It is also true that Twitter was partly responsible for the ludicrous outcome but it was tweets about Donald Trump that made us rational folk realise quite how ridiculous the man, and the result, is. Carefully edited videos, such as the one to the left, cut through the bile to show a beautiful outcome more positive than the reality. Not only that but the good people of the UK took to Twitter to bring the world back down to reality and help the world see what was really important during this confusing time….the changing shape of Toblerones.

Then there’re the GIFs. Yes, ok, so we can now get those on Facebook but we can also write big, long meaningful statuses on Facebook to convey how we feel. Twitter requires you to think about it. How can you convey how you really, feel with brevity?  GIFs. How can you quickly engage someone scrolling through at lightening speed? GIFs. How can you make Ruth really happy? GIFs.

I also love Twitter for its sense of conversation. The world is a lonely place and with everyone supposedly becoming antisocial mobile phone/human hybrids, the truth is we’re actually being very social. It’s just not #IRL social. Everyone is having a chat, online.

The best examples of this are when we look at the link between Twitter and television. Twitter, more than any other social media platform, brings people together during the big (and little) TV occasions creating imagined online communities to fill the void of actual human interaction. Bake Off is perhaps the most obvious example of this.

Bake off is (or should I say was, boo hoo) appointment to view television meaning that, by definition, people are choosing to be inside watching TV and not ‘out’ socialising. But, in reality, the world was watching Bake Off together…tweeting along bake by bake. Innuendo by innuendo.

The correlation between hot TV and Twitter is so

strong that Twitter is launching their live tv partnership with Apple TV which allows you to watch the live video (say American football) and have a curation of relevant Twitter feed next to it on the screen so that you can engage in conversation whilst you engage with the video.

The other reason I love Twitter is one of its biggest selling points; it’s THE place to go for breaking news. 2016 has been an awful year as far as news is concerned and Twitter has broken most of it to me. Whether it was yet another beloved celebrity who’d passed away or another horrific terror attack or shooting, I find myself going to Twitter rather than news sites for both verification and updates.  1n 2015, a survey conducted by Twitter and the American Press Institute found that 86% of Twitter users say that they use it for news, and the vast majority (74%) do so daily. In fact, the news angle is so prevalent that they have re-categorised themselves in the App Store; they are now listed under news rather than social media.  The same cannot be said of Facebook, who are currently battling against their ‘fake news’ problem.

Twitter also has other positives over Facebook. The biggest, for me, being that the app itself and that fact that, well to be blunt, it isn’t Facebook. The Facebook app is enough to make Bruce Banner bust the seams of his clothes and smash up the nearest town. Twitter doesn’t force things on you in the same way. I mean does anybody actually want the Facebook market place to be in prime pressing position on the app? I don’t. I also don’t want to have to go round and round the houses to be able to access the most recent content in my feed. I don’t want to see stuff from last week that I don’t care about at the top of my wall. I didn’t care about it then; I don’t care about it now.  Twitter, despite also having algorithms, lets me see what’s happening now. Yes, that might mean that it’s harder for content to stand out or that content might be missed but at least it’s accessible at my fingertips. If Twitter is ‘full of low-quality content’, Facebook is drowning in it.

But I suppose the key pull for me is that it’s based around two very important things: language and creativity. There is absolutely nothing more satisfying to me than getting appreciation for your use and manipulation of language. Conveying your point and personality in just 140 characters. Making someone laugh in 140 characters. Making someone think about something in 140 characters. That’s a skill and the way to make Twitter last is to harness the people who are best at doing that.  Creativity, either through language or visual content is harnessed through Twitter. The spam accounts that I mentioned at the start of this, which feels like years ago (…sorry, ironically for a Twitter user, I’m a rambler) they don’t do any of that.  And that is what is wrong with Twitter. Twitter isn’t dying. It’s being eaten from the inside by people with a lack of creativity and a poor command of language.

So, what am I really trying to say? Good question. Well, in case I hadn’t mentioned it, I love Twitter. Yes, it’s got its faults but are they problems that are unique to that particular platform?! I personally don’t think so. I think social media would be poorer if the blue bird flew the nest. There is no doubt that it needs to evolve, everything does, but at its very heart is something special and glorious. Whether it’s conversations being had or conversations being sparked from a tweet, conversation is at the heart of Twitter. And really, in the end, isn’t that the main definition of ‘social’.

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