Overlooking Trolls and IPOs, Twitter is one of the greatest communication inventions of the past 100 years. Unfortunately, most people see Twitter as an insignificant tool of the teenage wasteland. Either the learning curve repels them, or the abundance of anonymous ignorance deters them from discovering the unprecedented access.
Who can blame the Twit-less (those (un)lucky enough to avoid being sucked within the Twitterverse ethos?
On the surface, Twitter appears to act like a high school clique passing around a dirty note and giggling at a joke you don’t understand. And in reality, that is part of its greatness.
But delve deeper into the untapped potential. Years ago, the phone book (a concept now outdated) provided people the opportunity to communicate with others they never knew existed. In its simplest definition, Twitter is today’s generation’s phone book. Only you’re not limited to a name and number. You have access to the innermost thoughts and personal opinions of people all over the world.
Those notes being passed around behind your back are now displayed in real-time in front of your prying eyes.
The saddest reality of this unprecedented communication revolution, is most people prefer to stay within the familiar. Never branching out. Never engaging. Ignoring. The moment the “Tweet” button is pressed, those words and thoughts are subject to public knowledge. All 140 characters now belong to the people. And the people are listening.
I track all kinds of words and phrases. Some for business purposes, others for personal amusement. I am interested in the hashtags I watch scroll down my feed, and in turn, the people that speak them. Perhaps it’s the uniqueness of the medium, the unprecedented access. Or maybe the fact that Social Media as a whole has made us (contrary to logic) more isolated, preferring the privacy of our own computer screens and followers.
“Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god.” ~ Aristotle
Whether they be celebrity, public figures, foreign strangers, estranged friends, or anything in-between, a conversation is within a finger-tips length. But we’ve been trained not to speak to strangers, and that has rolled over to Twitter. Only these strangers don’t have candy. They aren’t in a tinted van. No trench coats or dark alleys. So why the reluctance?
My hypothesis comes down to the underlying pleasure people obtain from Social Media: it makes people famous. Well, at least feel famous. Getting Likes, Follows, RTs, etc. makes people feel special. It validates their life, thoughts, body. People use Social Media, and especially Twitter, to feel famous. By responding, or engaging in a conversation with a stranger, they bring themselves down to that level.
And no one wants to look uncool in front of a bunch of strangers.