Twitter, twits and tweets

Marcia Forbes

Thursday, April 22, 2010    

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"Twits" may be a better name for Twitter. It more aptly describes some of the ppl (internet language for people) and the things they do and say via the brave new virtual frontier of Twitter-sphere. Having been tweeting regularly for about three months, I confess that the point of it all continues to evade me largely. I keep at it, though, since tweeting is now an integral aspect of social networking, a subject which is of great interest to me. Every day I try for about eight tweets and for all that work I am blessed with the grand number of 47 followers. I follow 27, mostly locals, since I'm really trying to understand the thing from a Jamaican point of view.

Before my tweetrines abandon me, note that you are not the twits of my opening salvo. But consider the recent fate of a celebrity and a politician and their life on Twitter. First, the celebrity since they whop politicians every time. Kim Kardashian, a huge reality-show celebrity whom I only recently learnt about, found it "the funniest" when her friend hacked her twitter account and tweeted "rather naughty messages". This was an April Fools' Day prank.

Well, I must be missing something here! Anyway, these ppl r all in their 20s - Kim, the prankster Nicole, and my son's girlfriend via whom I first learnt of Kim - so the generation gap is evident. I simply cannot see the funny side of someone hacking my Twitter account and posting messages as if they were from me, not even if it were my BFF (best friend forever). We could perhaps say the prank amounted to identity theft and therefore not a joke. But I'm long past my 20s and may be just a little too serious.

Now to the UK politician Stuart MacLennan, the ex-potential candidate for a Scottish seat, who was sacked for a "string of foul-mouthed twitter rants". He was reported as "the first victim of overzealous tweeting in this campaign",with tweets such as, "Nick Clegg can #%&$ right off if he thinks he's in the same league as Brown and Cameron." Intemperate and politically incorrect for a candidate, but I'd let it pass. It was his other tweet that got me, "God, this fair trade organic banana is &8$#. Can I have a slave-grown, chemically treated genetically modified one?"

It's very easy to get sucked into tweeting your thoughts and opinions as they come, especially via the bb (BlackBerry for the uninitiated). I'm now up to about 290 tweets. One of my under-30 years of age friends tells me that 500 tweets is the magic number after which followers will come in droves. In technology that thinking is expressed as, "If you build it, they will come". In television it is, "Content is King". So I'm busy creating tweet content in the hope of building a strong base of followers. But to what end? Well, let's put it down to research.

Why do people tweet? I can understand its role among entertainers, who as "Twilebrities" can reach out to their fans and followers via tweets. So is it that Jane and John Doe yearn for celebrity status via social networks such as Facebook and Twitter? Or is it more related to social isolation? Sharing tweets, if you have followers, can make you feel connected. For me with so few followers, tweeting is just plain work so I've come up with a strategy of mostly sharing topical items from the media. This serves some of my followers who don't always read newspapers and makes me feel that my tweets aren't totally going in vain.

This social networking thing seems a bit like exhibitionism, though, and Facebook is the biggest exhibition of people's business. No wonder it's called "Fassbook". I confess to being pretty much a voyeur when it comes to Facebook. I look and read but hardly ever comment. Anyway, I was amazed when I logged on just after Easter and saw my weekend photos posted without me even having lifted a finger to place one picture. So it might not be you showing off yourself, but others showing you off, without you even knowing, unless you log on.

Middle and upper-class youths in Jamaica seem to be into social networking big time. I'm eager to find out if this is true for poor youths as well. One should never take it for granted that poor Jamaicans are excluded from certain technologies and trends. The last time I made that assumption I was rudely surprised. At that time it had to do with DVDs and their presence in inner-city communities. Now back to the business of tweeting; I confess that following certain tweets, such as Annie Paul's, allows me insights and information I might otherwise not be privy to. So here's to twitter and tweeting, even if one encounters a few twits along the way. By the way, that sacked politician wannabe twit got it wrong.Audiences voted Nick Clegg winner of the big debate in the UK.

Marcia Forbes is a media specialist.




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