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Twitter and message relevance

October 4, 2011

Today, there were two points made by the supervisor regarding something I said during the day, just out of wits for the theme. The first question was: are there irrelevant messages in this [Twitter] context?

That’s a good question, in more than one sense: How do you learn if there is no allowance for some trial and error? Right! But I wonder if “Twitter” stands for meaningless messages, like that annoying 4square ones showing your whereabouts. Or the criptic #ff (FollowFriday) that I still have to find sense before I use or adhere. Or so many others that seem to have just a phatic function, just a form of expressing the want for the communication channel to be kept open. Maybe it does. 140 characters may say a lot or nothing at all. Sometimes, one does not have anything to add, really, but just to show a presence has value.

That value may be an investment in community building. I do not know if Twitter is enough for that aim. I’ve been around sometime, basically lurking, lost in a sea of messages. Somehow, afraid that following an extra fellow tweeter would add to the always growing flow of messages that keep a tag on my daily tasks, sometimes overwhelming me to the point of desperation. I realize that, somehow, I was not really in. There was no community for me in that virtual space, not because the possibility didn’t exist, but because I didn’t allow myself in it. I stayed outside, watching.

That´s why I think in terms of message relevance. It’s not that I do not have a point; I do. I prefer to use my blogs for passing ideas. I feel more comfortable with the model. Also, I’m more used to it, as I’ve been around since 2004 in the blog world. But I still do not feel the need to “advertise” my ideas expressed in the blogs using Twitter. Even my choice of wording (advertise) carries a kind of negative feeling to it.

Well, what about community building? Do I see it coming around, with the help of a few tweets? Maybe. In fact, today it is probably easier to find people like you using Twitter. In former times I made a few friends from the comments boxes of blogs. I’m not sure anymore. It seems that, if I may say so, friendship got upgraded to Twitter status. One “meets” others trough Twitter and then, maybe, things keep going on in the comments boxes of nearby blogs. It is a way of overriding that annoying character limitation of Twitter (I realise that I keep coming back to blogs, distancing myself in a way, but that’s just how I am, no excuses).

Is there any hope for Twitter babble, an endless stream, regarding community building? Maybe that hope resides precisely in hashtags, a simple device that puts some order on such a word deluge (that was the second question from the supervisor: does an hashtag define a community?). With such simple addition, sometimes with the simultaneous sacrifice of some words or letter to oblige to the 140 chars limit, one finds a more manageable group, drawn together by a common interest. And then, dialogs may arise, in Twitter or in other media. a world of possibilities opens itself to everyone that pays the price. One gives always something back a kind of “ticket price” for participation. But there is something to be gained from the break in the cocoon. The fact no one can escape: humanity is a community work. It does not work for lone people.

If that means a few irrelevant messages thrown away in a group, so what? Humans are not perfect. Humans like warmth, something that is not easily expressed by words, even less in 140 chars. So smiles and phatic expressions abound in the flow just to keep things even, human. And that deserves a chance, I think. I will try harder this time.

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