As David Cameron famously let slip on a Radio 5Live interview “Too many Twits might make a twat” and for many, particularly those yet to get comfortable with the whole Social Media thing this can often be a good excuse for keeping away. Tuning in to the babble of what passes for conversation, distilled in the main to just 140 characters must seem like hell for many – especially to those of my mothers generation.
However, there is no arguing with the power of the medium. Widely credited with being at least a window into the world of pre-Tunisia Middle Eastern governance Social Media, like Facebook and Twitter have given a huge boost to what we now recognise as genuine people power. For the time being it even seems as if the radicals – at both ends of the spectrum, have yet to recognise the power of Social Media or if they do, perhaps it’s just not the kind of power they want.
Once you start to use an application like Twitter or Facebook you spend some time considering two things;- Firstly, how on earth will you ever get more than half a dozen followers and secondly, what are the rules or etiquette when using them?
Like most societies, there are unwritten guides or expectations and like any gathering in the real world, if you over-step the mark someone will set you right. If you’re lucky it will be a friendly aside, if not then you may experience a full broadside from someone you may not even know!
Manners are, my grandmother would be pleased to see, still everything. Remember your audience, speak to them not down to them and remember to say thank you if someone re-Tweets what you say or is kind enough just to care in the first place. Welcome new followers, keep your language on the BBC side of ‘street’ and remember that as with so many things, it’s best not to operate when drunk!
Finally, and perhaps controversially, remember that you can have more than one ‘Page’ on Facebook or profile on Twitter. You can have one for work, one for personal life, one perhaps for your altar-ego. An exchange on Twitter just yesterday highlighted what may be a gender gap in the understanding or expectations of some users of Twitter.
Like many men I ‘follow’ other people on Twitter who have the occasional pearl of wisdom to pass on. Something that Harry Wallop says might make me smile, something Rupert Bates observes often makes me laugh. I follow a lot of professional journalist who inform me and people like Graham Norwood who can both inform and inspire. Some I follow or ‘stalk’ just because that is what Twitter allows – like being in a restaurant with someone famous, you hope that some of the gilt might run off. Finally there are those I follow because they are mates and as in real life, they are the people I would seek out in a crowded bar. I always like to know what they think.
There are many elements of Twitter and Facebook I dislike. The inability to turn them off when I have had enough is dull but then I was always one to leave a party before the end so I guess it’s not too different. But one thing I have noticed is that like real life, men and women seem to use Twitter in different ways. A recent exchange on Twitter highlighted the fact that by and large men can usually say all they need in 140 characters but women often need more. Man like to follow those who stick to the subject (mostly property in my case) whereas women will often deviate. Like marriage I guess, as a bloke I don’t need to know what my wife is choosing for lunch if I am not there but she thinks the fact I’m not interested as a sign that I don’t care.
Twitter and other Social Media will continue to evolve in unimaginable ways but I am expecting to see multiple profiles start to appear as people grapple with the pros and cons of sharing thoughts and experiences with each other. It may be too simplistic to summarise it thus and I’m sure he is too canny a politician to be caught saying it but maybe the Prime Minister might now consider that perhaps women Twitter and men just Tweet?