My twitter is not your twitter

There’ve been several discussions -which I’m too lazy to link to- about twitter: What it is, what it should be, the right/wrong way of using it, who you should follow, who you should unfollow, and most recently, how to measure authority (whatever that is: influence? credibility? trustworthiness?)

I resist any attempts at defining the right way to use twitter and I urge you to do the same.

The right way is that there shouldn’t be one right way.

It all comes down to the way you view the world:

Possible worldview #1: The world is complex, pluralistic, and fragmented; there are multiple voices and multiple truths. People construct their worlds through communication.

Possible worldview #2: The world can be reduced down to a few simple laws, rules, and patterns. There is one truth out there waiting to be discovered.

If #2 is your worldview, then you will keep looking for the “right” way to use twitter, and for the right way to define and measure authority.

However, if you see the world as in #1, you will agree that different groups and subgroups will create different cultures around twitter, and will use it in different way. You may also agree that a person who has authority in one group doesn’t have it in another group, because each group has different criteria for authority, and in some group the concept doesn’t even exist or matter.

To me, the beauty of social media is that it is fluid, pluralistic, multivocal, fragmented, and chaotic. Yes, it’s very postmodern, and that’s the way I like it. I see no need to impose strict authoritative definitions. Once these definitions are imposed and accepted, twitter becomes them – because that’s how we construct our world through communication.

And the problem is, that once something is constructed and accepted, it becomes reified – it becomes a hard, immutable, taken for granted truth. We forget there was a time when it was open to negotiation and discussion and we continue to live with it, to obey its definitional authority, even when it doesn’t serve our purposes any longer.

To avoid this, I’d rather we keep the world of twitter fluid, complex, and pluralistic, and that we don’t agree on any one definition or right way. Rather, let us enjoy the multiple worlds and villages we’ve built around twitter, and celebrate the fact that my twitter might not be your twitter, and that’s the beauty of it.

6 thoughts on “My twitter is not your twitter”

  1. This post is wonderful! Our society has so many “rules” when something new is created. It is like the creator only wants a program to run a certain way, when in the long-run the program has so much potential if the creator would simply allow less restrictions.

    Within the PR world it is essential that we make connections with a variety of people and their groups. What better way than through Twitter?

    I completely agree that Twitter should be open and “fluid’ to anyone. It’s a “social” network. Last time I checked the term “social” meant to be open and acquainted to different people

  2. Hi Todd,

    I wish that weren’t the case and I’m not happy I have to protect my updates. They weren’t protected for a long time, and then, well, it’s a long story involving a troll and protecting my students.

    I’ll just have to ask you to trust me that there are reasons behind this decision, and I’m aware it’s not the best case scenario.

  3. Wondering why a professor who teaches communications has her Twitter account locked, intentionally causing a barrier to fluid conversations.


  4. Jeremiah Owyang, from Forrester Research, has a suggestion that fits with the pluralistic, fragmented worldview. He suggested that search should be based around each user’s social connections, rather than authority. Makes sense to me.

    A fairly interesting discussion followed with a lot of different solutions. That in itself supports your pluralistic view, Mihaela.

    In the end, a suite of search tools is likely to be the answer. We’ll get a search tool based on authority, and other more focused search tools will come up too. We’ll get to choose whichever suits a the time.

    Here’s a link to Jeremiah’s FF where he made that suggestion:

    Also, Dave Winer posted on it here:

    And here’s Loic’s blog post which seems to have caused the sparks to fly:

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