One more on Twitter

If you can't beat a dead horse on a blog, where can you?

twitter-laptopOne more on this ongoing conservation on Twitter as a medium.

I suppose part of my reaction to the “I don’t get Twitter” from comments on a blog in particular is that ~15 years ago people didn’t understand blogs, thought they were a fad, and were only used by a certain slice of nerds (all of which was true to a point, of course). And yet, a lot people, including many readers here, have been using blogs as a gateway to wider news for a very long time. Indeed, the blogging format has largely reshaped the presentation of online news even as old school blogs have substantially faded from their heyday.

I am sure we all knew people who didn’t “get” blogs-even as we ourselves consumed content from them on a daily basis. If you can “get” blogging you can “get” Twitter, even if you don’t personally use it or see the appeal.  Twitter is described as a “micro-blogging platform” and I think that that is an accurately description.  Back in the early days of blogging blogs were sometime divided into “thinkers” and “linkers.”  Thinkers wrote longer pieces, linkers just pointed readers to interesting things they found online.  Twitter and other social media took the “linkers” idea to a whole new level.

There will always be some new way of sharing information.  For example, I more or less “get” Snapchat, even though I really cannot get myself to use it. That doesn’t stop me from understanding that my sons get some of their news from Snapchat, including from old school sources like ESPN.

Fundamentally, newspapers, radio, TV, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. are all just means to communicate and they reach people in various ways.  Perhaps more importantly, what is said via one medium (e.g., Twitter) can then be broadcast via some other medium (e.g., television or the newspaper–either on dead tree on electronically).  As such, it is actually kind of silly, and denies reality, to say “well, that was on Snapchat, so I can ignore it, even though it is now on CNN, FNC, etc. and in the pages of the NYT and WaPo“).

Sure, if no one is paying attention to your old Friendster page, we can safely ignore it (since it is a self-confirming statement–trees falling in the woods with no one around to hear them and all that).  But if the the Pope starts issuing encyclicals via MySpace, I don’t think we would ignore them because of the method of delivery.

My goal is not to be a cheerleader for Twitter, but to make broader point I have been trying to make in the comments for some time. (Although, feel free, btw, to follow me on Twitter @drsltaylor if you like).

FILED UNDER: US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. The other thing worth noting is that Twitter is what you make of it based largely on who you follow, something I’ve learned quite well in the two and a half years since Trump entered the race for President. Because of that, and the way his most ardent supporters act, I’ve been able to cull my Twitter following list of most of the truly insane people. Additionally, things like Twitter’s Lists feature make it easy to follow specific topic areas if you take the time to organize them well.

    In addition to all that, there’s the fact that Twitter has become a go-to source for “Breaking News” and a good source for finding new and interesting things to read. Again, it all depends on who you’re following.

    Additionally, for better or worse the President’s Twitter account has become his primary means of communicating with the world and, horrifying as it is, a glimpse inside how his mind works.That makes it not only worth paying attention to, but absolutely essential. Indeed, I have no doubt that pretty much every important world leader has some aide monitoring @RealDonaldTrump to see what comes up next.




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  2. MarkedMan says:

    In the other thread I blasted twitter and said I think it is a waste of my time. Since you’ve decided to go more in depth, I’ll do the same.

    – Twitter is a waste of MY time, but that doesn’t mean I think it is a waste of everyone’s time. I have a lot of news sources, so Twitter would be an additional one. If I were to follow the Twitter-verse, it would mean spending less time with other sources. I don’t think Twitter is worth the substitution. If I was a sports fan, I’d probably feel differently as you can get breaking news in a really convenient form. But I can’t think of anything I’m interested in that would be improved by faster, shorter hot takes. In fact, when there is a mass shooting, or a nazi rally or what have you, I tend to scale back on blogs and wait to see what the NY Times is saying on it. They are by no means perfect but they are likely to attempt to verify something as a fact rather than just say “random deputy speculated that…”

    – I’ve been participating in various forms of communications where user participation was key since 1979 (at least). They range from the story-heavy/commentary-light (Washington Post Article and its comment section) to the other extreme of 100% user commentary (unmoderated Usenet groups). I participated in Usenet-like discussion groups since before there was a Usenet. And in my experience it is true without exception that as a forum becomes more popular its reader commentary becomes less and less useful.This comment section I regularly read. It’s readership is small (sorry guys), and if it became bigger I think it would decline. The only other two comment sections I read (and those at maybe once a week) are the “NY Times’ Picks” comments on their articles (maybe 1 in a 200 get picked and there is a high bar to posting) and The American Conservative’s comments on certain articles. Both are moderated.

    – In four decades I have never seen a success when unmoderated forums tried to collectively turn back the tide of time wasting nonsense posts no matter the effort. During the Usenet heyday I employed a special reader that allowed me to screen out certain posters, as well as key word triggers, and I used these features extensively. But eventually I gave up. Note that the groups I frequented weren’t political or religious. They were primarily user groups for computer languages or pieces of equipment. The only exception I can remember was a group dedicated to text adventures (think “Zork” or “Advent”) around the turn of the millennium or later – hardly an internet hotspot. All of these descended into a writhing mass of spam and bile as more and more people came online.

    So, for my purposes, Twitter is just an aggravating time-waster. It’s only benefit is to report breaking news faster than just about anything else, but there is no news I want faster rather than more accurately.




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  3. @MarkedMan: Sure. I can understand “I don’t like Twitter, and therefore I don’t use it” (kind of my point with SnapChat). What annoys me is “I don’t like Twitter, therefore I declare it unimportant.”




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  4. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Yep. It’s incredibly obvious that Twitter is important. Much to my surprise, there are many things I don’t like that are important 😉




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  5. michael reynolds says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Much to my surprise, there are many things I don’t like that are important.

    Yes, I am told, for example, that exercise is ‘important.’




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  6. Todd says:

    I’ve had a twitter account since 2007. I have tried several times to get into it, and it’s just never stuck. I do occasionally use it for certain news situations as a few others have described above, but I almost never interact with anybody else via @ replies or retweeting. In fact, I rarely post anything on my own timeline, and when I do it’s usually not terribly interesting, Oddly though, I have enough followers (mostly from those early days) than many people who are active on the site. One day I may “get” twitter, but it’s unlikely to be anytime in the near future.




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  7. JKB says:

    To understand Twitter, it is best to look at the root word. The company doesn’t market it as a way to twit, but it is mostly for that purpose

    Twit – To vex by bringing to notice, or reminding of, a fault,
    defect, misfortune, or the like; to revile; to reproach; to
    upbraid; to taunt; as, he twitted his friend of falsehood.
    [1913 Webster]

    As for social media, good or bad, we should consider the observance of Samuel Morse at the future of his invention.

    In an 1838 letter to Francis O.J. Smith in 1838, Morse wrote:

    “This mode of instantaneous communication must inevitably become an instrument of immense power, to be wielded for good or for evil, as it shall be properly or improperly directed.”




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  8. CSK says:

    I’ve had a Twitter account for probably eight or nine years. The only Tweet I ever posted was to advise people to go to my website. I never bother looking at the account, and don’t recall my login password. I don’t use Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, or any similar site.

    But that doesn’t mean that I don’t understand and accept that millions of other people are devoted to Twitter, etc.

    I do check Twitter–but only to keep tabs on whatever idiocies have spilled from the fingers of D. Trump. You don’t have to have an account or log in to do that.




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  9. CSK says:

    Wikileaks has put a PDFof the entire contents of Fire and Fury online.

    This is piracy and a distinct violation of copyright laws. How does Holt counteract that?




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  10. MarkedMan says:

    @CSK: I imagine this is just another way Assange is trying to ingratiate himself with Trump, assuming he’s trying to damage Wolff economically, or at least trying to get the moron-in-chief to believe it.




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  11. CSK says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Exactly.




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  12. MarkedMan says:

    FWIW, I assume all popular books are available online on some form or another within a day or two of release. I know my Chinese friends read every book we discussed by downloading them in English or even in translation within a day or two of publication. I don’t pass judgement here as book stores are still a dangerous business in China. So Assange isn’t really making something uniquely available. He’s sending a message.




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  13. de stijl says:

    Trump postponed his so-called Fake News Award.

    John Kelly took his keys out of his pocket. He jingle-jangled them. So shiny! And they talk like “tink-tink-tink.”




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  14. de stijl says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Assange wants out of the Ecuadoran Embassy, I’m sure.




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  15. R.Dave says:

    Fundamentally, newspapers, radio, TV, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc. are all just means to communicate and they reach people in various ways. Perhaps more importantly, what is said via one medium (e.g., Twitter) can then be broadcast via some other medium (e.g., television or the newspaper–either on dead tree on electronically).

    This cross-media sharing is actually why I don’t bother with Twitter myself – there’s SO MUCH that gets dumped onto Twitter on any given day that I prefer to wait for professional blogs and legacy media to filter the stream and highlight the items that are worth paying attention to. To make an imperfect analogy, it’s a bit like choosing to read the newspaper instead of reading everything that comes off the wires yourself.




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  16. michael reynolds says:

    @CSK:
    A number of my books have had bootlegs before publication. In general I don’t worry about it too much. You end up losing a few hundred sales – obviously more in Wolff’s case, but I doubt he’ll have much to bitch about.




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  17. Tony W says:

    @michael reynolds: We purchased Wolff’s book merely to piss off Trump.

    Can’t do that with a leaked PDF.




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  18. James Pearce says:

    (Although, feel free, btw, to follow me on Twitter @drsltaylor if you like).

    I followed you, then I unfollowed you, then I missed you and followed you again, then you said that thing I didn’t like and I blocked you. (Actually, that’s a joke. Only the first thing is true.)

    My goal is not to be a cheerleader for Twitter, but to make broader point I have been trying to make in the comments for some time.

    All hail the merits of Twitter! You can micro-blog. You can link. You can defame the special counsel investigating you. You can threaten entire classes of people. You can have your awful words repeated and amplified until you’re the evil bastard that runs the world. It’s great.

    As such, it is actually kind of silly, and denies reality, to say “well, that was on Snapchat, so I can ignore it, even though it is now on CNN, FNC, etc. and in the pages of the NYT and WaPo“).

    Consider: Trump’s tweets are his cost-free, low-effort method of manipulating media coverage. CNN, the NYT, and the WaPo don’t have to take the bait. (FNC will, though, winking along.)

    But they do, because they know their audience’s appetite for treating Trump’s tweets as “newsworthy.” I say make a conscience choice to turn down the volume, to lose interest. The watchdogs must do their due diligence, of course, but perhaps they need to do a better job of recognizing just how much diligence is due.




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  19. SKI says:

    @CSK:

    I do check Twitter–but only to keep tabs on whatever idiocies have spilled from the fingers of D. Trump. You don’t have to have an account or log in to do that.

    Ah, but if you have an account, you can group certain accounts worthy of following into lists allowing for very expeditious checking. As an example, I have a list of my preferred DC Food Trucks that I can check to see who is where each day when its getting close to lunch time. Otherwise, I never have to see them in my main feed.

    Twitter ultimately is a tool that is really good at superficial expedited information gathering for current/breaking topics.

    It also, if you have a particular interest, can be very useful at community building, particularly when an “event” in that community is happening.




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  20. Liberal Capitalist says:

    As a consultant on Social Networking and Customer Experience, twitter pisses the hell out of me.

    While I can use it as a potentially better access to get issues resolved (as most corporations have a twitter address, and desire to show their responsiveness), I cannot use it to express my own opinions as that would potentially jeopardize corporate opportunities.

    This is why I do not post my name, even here. The internet has a long memory, as Trump and his family will find out in the future.

    LinkedIn is where I play, and even then comments of the type that I post here never find their way there.




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  21. SKI says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: Not a consultant but similarly professionally inhibited, I go with two accounts – one with name for work-related/official stuff, one without for more political/frivolous commentary.




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  22. MarkedMan says:

    @SKI: Your habit of checking on the DC food trucks is interesting. In the past few years there are a few websites that I’ve noticed are substandard versus what I expected. A good example is gimletmedia.com, which consists mostly of a list of podcasts they have available and if you click on one, you get the podcasts themselves without any real supporting information or news outside of the podcast blurb you would get anyway.I know I’ve gone there to see if a podcast is cancelled or on hiatus or something more about a particular show, but there’s nothing there. My suspicion is that they rely on Twitter. Someone asks a question, and someone answers it. The problem with this is Twitter, Instagram and Facebook don’t have much stickiness of important information. It scrolls off. And yes, on Facebook at least you can force things to remain at the top, but its use is mostly just for a few factoids or an introduction.




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  23. Mister Bluster says:

    If you can’t beat a dead horse on a blog, where can you?




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  24. @Mister Bluster: A fair point.




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  25. Matt Bernius says:

    Steven,

    Across the two posts you’ve raised a number of great points. The only thing I’d challenge you to think more about (or perhaps not as quickly dismiss) is the role of Twitter as a medium in all this.

    It might be the McLuhan in me, but I think that the very nature of Twitter as a medium (and it’s social implications) is a critical component in this. In particular, the promise of Twitter is that its direct interaction with the individual (with the possibility of a 2 way conversation). That makes it different than just about any other form of address (with the possible exception of Facebook). There are no press agents or speech writers involved (in theory). This is what Trump is thinking.

    And that’s a Twitter persona that he’s been crafting for YEARS.

    BTW, I get that individuals and organizations do have social media managers handle their twitter account. And that can become a convenient excuse when something bad goes out (up there with someone hacked my twitter account).

    But the reality is that direct connection and personal control is the promise of the platform. It’s also worth nothing that Trump himself (and his press secretary) have noted this directness. It’s cited as the reason he doesn’t give press conferences. Twitter allows him to communicate directly with the world rather than having it filtered/mediated through the press.




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  26. @Matt Bernius: Sure, there is more that could be said about the specific medium and Trump’s usage of it.




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