In reality, however, it’s not actually children who are using Twitter.  I’ll do my best to try to dispel that myth and others about Twitter here:

  • Twitter is just for kids/teenagers/people under 25. Stats show that Facebook is still mostly used by the under 35s, but heavy users of Twitter are in fact more likely to be in the 25-45 age bracket. There is even a sizeable number of over 65s using it. I would (as have others) suggest that this is because the majority of Twitter users are on Twitter because they are mainly using it in connection with their work.
  • Tweeters just send text messages to themselves to tell Twitter what they’re doing all day (I actually heard this description last week). Anyone who does that too much is pretty much an instant ‘unfollow’ for me – the most productive aspect of Twitter is that it helps people share news and information about their fields of interest or their occupation, with the occasional anecdote about their personal lives thrown in to show that they’re human.
  • Twitter stops people from going out into the world and socialising in a normal way, and destroys peoples’ social skills. As with any new-fangled, revolutionary device, there is an initial ‘craze’ period, and a period where everyone scratches their head and worries that it signals the end of civilisation as we know it. I wasn’t alive at the time, so you’ll have to do your homework on this one, but sources tell me that people were worried about this when the telephone was invented too.

Twitter can help people build a ‘community’ of like-minded people, yes. This is a ‘community’ in the traditional sense of the word, nothing more sinister than that. That ‘community’ is a very valuable virtual water cooler for those of us who work freelance. I’m not sure how others working in open plan offices, for example, use Twitter. Perhaps they use it to reach out to virtual ‘colleagues’ beyond their immediate co-workers. That’s what it’s all about, folks. COMMUNICATION. BUT you still can’t beat socialising in person, and I’m pretty sure that most ‘normal’ Twitter users still do that. Perhaps even with someone they initially met on Twitter and found they had a lot in common with. There have always been reclusives,  and there always will be, with or without social media.

Feel free to share any other myth shockers you’ve come across, or even ones that you believe to be true.

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We’re all tweeting nuts

Traditional media in the UK seem to be working themselves up into a frenzy over social media websites lately, and Twitter in particular. It’s almost like they just realised that the internet exists beyond Web 1.0. Disappointingly, almost without exception they woefully misunderstand Twitter even more than other social media tools, which they more or less dismiss  as self-indulgent tools used only by social outcasts, sex maniacs and people suffering from low attention spans. The Times has been especially virulent in its disparaging assessment of Twitter, concerned that it may “precipitate a new kind of voyeurism. In a recent article quoting @stephenfry:

“Arse, poo and widdle.” With this unholy trinity of coy expletives, Stephen Fry introduced us to the joys of Twitter earlier this month

By far the most disappointing report on Twitter that I’ve witnessed was on Newsnight yesterday evening. Apprarently Baroness Greenfield has piped up and said that communicating online is contributing to a rise in autism and is increasing the social isolation of children. Paxman had a couple of ‘experts’ on the show to discuss this. Watching this discussion felt a bit like watching the blind leading the blind, since nobody really seemed to have actually used Twitter or any other social media tool, despite professing to be experts on the matter. My favourite quote from one of them was “Children could be writing to people in another country who they’ve never met before”. Shock! Horror! Damnation! As someone who works at the global interface, I couldn’t quite understand why it would be such a terrible outcome for children to communicate with other children in different countries/cultures, provided that is done in a safe environment (remember internet parental controls?). My other half, equally bemused by the discussion, said to me “What about at school when we all had penpals abroad?”.

In reality, however, it’s not actually children who are using Twitter.  I’ll do my best to try to dispel that myth and others about Twitter here:

  • Twitter is just for kids/teenagers/people under 25. Stats show that Facebook is still mostly used by the under 35s, but heavy users of Twitter are in fact more likely to be in the 25-45 age bracket. There is even a sizeable number of over 65s using it. I would (as have others) suggest that this is because the majority of Twitter users are on Twitter because they are mainly using it in connection with their work.
  • Tweeters just send text messages to themselves to tell Twitter what they’re doing all day (I actually heard this description last week). Anyone who does that too much is pretty much an instant ‘unfollow’ for me – the most productive aspect of Twitter is that it helps people share news and information about their fields of interest or their occupation, with the occasional anecdote about their personal lives thrown in to show that they’re human.
  • Twitter stops people from going out into the world and socialising in a normal way, and destroys peoples’ social skills. As with any new-fangled, revolutionary device, there is an initial ‘craze’ period, and a period where everyone scratches their head and worries that it signals the end of civilisation as we know it. I wasn’t alive at the time, so you’ll have to do your homework on this one, but sources tell me that people were worried about this when the telephone was invented too.

Twitter can help people build a ‘community’ of like-minded people, yes. This is a ‘community’ in the traditional sense of the word, nothing more sinister than that. That ‘community’ is a very valuable virtual water cooler for those of us who work freelance. I’m not sure how others working in open plan offices, for example, use Twitter. Perhaps they use it to reach out to virtual ‘colleagues’ beyond their immediate co-workers. That’s what it’s all about, folks. COMMUNICATION. BUT you still can’t beat socialising in person, and I’m pretty sure that most ‘normal’ Twitter users still do that. Perhaps even with someone they initially met on Twitter and found they had a lot in common with. There have always been reclusives,  and there always will be, with or without social media.

Feel free to share any other myth shockers you’ve come across, or even ones that you believe to be true.

Be Sociable, Share!

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User Responses

6 Responses and Counting...

  1. Serena Dorey

    February 25, 2009

    I completely agree, Philippa. I’ve only been using Twitter for a month or so but it’s been a positive experience so far. I think the worst description I’ve heard about Twitter is “e-mail on steroids” (by Tim Ferriss, I believe). Twitter is only what you make it: you can choose who you follow, what information you give, what e-mail notifications you receive and when and how often you read and/or send tweets. If someone is sending too many tweets or giving information that isn’t useful to you, you can always unfollow them.

  2. philippa

    February 25, 2009

    @Serena

    Excellent point – the user is ultimately in control of what they read on Twitter.

  3. Harry

    February 25, 2009

    Didn’t realise that. Twitter in this part of the world do have its fair share, there’s even groups/a community spearheading its usage so people are aware of the presences in the public arena. http://tinyurl.com/8aot2n

  4. Sarah Dillon

    February 25, 2009

    Great post Philippa, and good point about the demographics of Twitter.

    It’s disappointing that otherwise educated, critical thinkers will settle for hyperbole and sloppy ‘facts’ when it comes to the internet.

    In fact, I think it’s dangerous because uninformed nonsense like this makes social media a scape goat for all of society’s woes. This means we don’t see the wood for the trees on some very serious issues. For example, isn’t it sad that these denizens of civilised society aren’t asking why THEIR children are spending hours unsupervised in front of a screen, be that a television or a computer?! Who’s the responsible person who BOUGHT the computer or the mobile phone in the first place?!

    In the spirit of your post, three more related myths spring to mind:

    1. Social media will turn weirdos into social butterflies: believe me, if you lack social skills offline, it’ll be pretty obvious online too. Why is it that people aren’t developing the skills they need to be fully participating members society in the first place?

    2. Social media leaves vulnerable people open to sinister predators: Again, if you can’t read the signs of grooming offline, then you won’t be able to read them online either. Why is it that so many people aren’t aware of these in this age of instant information?
    Ultimately, here’s one fact the internet hasn’t changed: women and children are more at risk of abuse or attack from family members or close acquaintances than they are from random strangers. But of course the soundbites from that aren’t half as sexy.

    I guess it’s much easier to blame a bunch of ones and zeros than ask ourselves what role we’ve played in making ‘real life’ society the way it is.

  5. philippa

    February 25, 2009

    @Sarah – couldn’t agree more. It’s baffling that so many people still have irrational feelings about the internet when as you say the hard truth is that children are much more at risk from people in their immediate circle. I understand why people feel the need to have this culture of blaming someone or, better still, someTHING for our problems, but in this case, it’s about time people really realised that they have their share of the blame (if there is actually any to be apportioned).

    If parents are prepared to buy all manner of computers, phones etc. for their children, it is their responsibility to know what their children may have access to with these tools and deal with that in a sensible manner.

    Your myth 1 is so true; if someone has nothing to say offline, then don’t bother ‘saying it’ online either.

  6. Harry

    February 25, 2009

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PN2HAroA12w

    A young man struggles against the pressure to Twitter his life away.

    From: “SuperNews!” An animated sketch comedy series airing on Current TV.

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