TwitLash

I’m noticing that the general backlash against twitter and other social tools has had a boost recently, presumably in response to the positive vibe coming from those celebs who’ve found it useful: @stephenfry, @wossy, @schofe et al.

Just joining some dots…

Dr Aric Sigman writes in the Biologist (though I’ve not seen the full article I now see that there’s an eye-squintingly, difficult to read online, pdf available) that online social networking is bad for your health. I agree, if what you mean is simply sitting in your bedroom hunched over a screen, having fantasy relationships with people you’re never likely to meet. I’ve written to Dr Sigman inviting him to come along to the Tuttle Club and see what were doing to complement online social networking with face-to-face goodness and so that we can elaborate on the empirical evidence since I was writing about it in November 2007.

The Sunday Times rambles on with pop-psychology about how twitter is narcissistic and a sign of inadequacy, quoting Oliver James: “Nobody would Twitter if they had a strong sense of identity” (James’s attitude to taking personal responsiblity for one’s own mental health is summed up in the title of his book “They Fuck You Up” (my emphasis)) and a whole bunch of other “experts” who tell us what it means about us without knowing us or actually using the medium that we’re using – very scientific.

The Daily Telegraph lays into the appointment of of the “Twittercrat” – the Director of Digital Engagement – focusing on how much this poor soul might be paid (my reading of the ad was that the salary would be in the range £80k – £160k but that’s much less scary than “up to £160k”) and how that is disgraceful in the context of a recession – given that the successful applicant will no doubt only spend her days, sitting hunched over a computer twittering about her intimate life details and displaying her lack of identity. Occasionally she might be poking the Prime Minister (oooer missus!)

Briefly, when I’ve stopped muttering “Oh Good Grief!”, my perceptions in all of this are:

  • An unconscious (or is it?) bias on the part of established media because something vital, exciting and productive is happening in a space that they formerly occupied exclusively – ie the public conversation space.
  • Contempt prior to investigation by the scientists quoted.
  • A misunderstanding of the value of social networking based on a misunderstanding of how a knowledge economy works and what *work* is, looks like, contains or excludes.
  • A similar misunderstanding of the creation of value in such an economy, and how “digital engagement” for government might lead to faster economic recovery.
  • A distortion of the nature of the public conversation space and an assumption that we are talking to them.
  • A shallow understanding of “following”, which leads to the assumption that if I have 2,000 followers on twitter, I must want 2,000 people to listen to everything I say. I blog and twitter for myself, my own development and to contribute to the community, where I can – I don’t believe that that is narcissistic or ego-driven – except on the odd occasion when it is! :D

Interestingly, a freelance journalist, Zoe Blackler, was commissioned to write about twitter by The Times and came to The Tuttle Club last October. They then sent a photographer along later for pictures (he spent the whole morning with us soaking up the conversation as well as taking loads of pics) I haven’t seen anything in print about it, have you?