Twitter, one big cocktail-party. Just go with the flow.
In stead of most media, I couldn’t use Twitter right away, I had to learn it. It took me three attempts to learn Twitter. The first time I started using it as myself, @lottewoerde. I tweeted things like: “doing the dishes”, “sitting in the sun” or “tired, need a vacation”. Unfortunately no one was responding my humble messages, and I started complaining about it. Twitter was a medium for “uninteresting people”, sending “uninteresting messages” to “no one in particular”. Dutch television program VOC expressed well how I felt about the medium these days. So after two unsatisfactory months I unsubscribed myself, and went on with my offline life.
The second time my intention was to use Twitter professionally. I thought using it would be a simple way to market my company. I called myself @lotontwerpt, after my company’s name and tweeted things like: “Just finished a poster for Jonge Socialisten”, or “Got a nice assignment for Libelle” and things like that. Pure professionally of course. But sadly enough, except for some very good friends and colleagues, still nobody was following me. Apparently, my messages didn’t appeal to anyone. I got bored and stopped sending 140 character-messages into the world. This time I kept my profile, and in stead of sending messages, I started reading them and used Twitter to stay informed about the latest developments in my field. I finally found a way to use the medium, but it was still not very satisfactory.
A few months later I complained a little about Twitter to a dedicated user, @sj3fk3. I told him I wanted to use it professionally, but my professional messages were too boring for people to read. I also told him I found it difficult to define the borderline between professional and personal tweets. I dedicated myself to the professional side of the line, so I couldn’t tweet anything personal, could I? He responded by giving me the keyword: cocktailparty. He told me that Twitter is just one big cocktail-party. You walk through a room full of people and everywhere people are talking in groups of three or four. You hear pieces of conversations and you get to decide whether of not you join the conversation, just listen, or walk by. You get to know new people, and through this people you get to know other new people. And when people like you, they want to do business with you as well. There is no border between professional and personal use. So just enjoy the conversation. Go with the flow.
According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi ‘go with the flow’ is accually what makes us most happy. In his words, flow is a state of mind where attention appears focused and, simultaneously, not in need of focus at the same time. Athletes and performers experience it when they’re at the height of their proffession and everything just falls into place and feels right. The term flow is also significant in television studies. Raymond Williams used it in this sense for the the first time. He emphasized that flow is “the defining characteristic of broadcasting, simultaneously as a technology and as a cultural form” (1975, p.86, 93).
Danah Boyd uses the term flow to explain where web 2.0 is taking us. She argues that the goal is to live in a world where information is everywhere. It flows by and we can grab it when it’s most relevant, valuable, entertaining or insightful. We live with and around information: social information, entertainment information or news information. Twitter is all that. Twitter is a flow of information, where you can grab whatever you need. It is not only a social medium, where you can chat with people, it is also a news medium, where you can have most information from first hand. And it’s also an entertainment medium, where people share movies and pictures they like.
The new way of looking towards Twitter worked for me. I use Twitter now to get inspired, to stay informed about the latest developments in my field, to stay in touch with people and to be informed first about the most recent news. I also got to know new people as the @sj3fk3 predicted and even attended a tweetup.
Boyd, Danah. “Streams of Content, Limited Attention.” UX Magazine 25 Feb. 2010. ‹http://uxmag.com/features/streams-of-content-limited-attention›.
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper Perennial Modern Classics; 1ST edition. 2008
Williams, Raymond. Television: Technology and Cultural Form. 1975