“Twittering stems from a lack of identity. It's a constant update of who you are, what you are, where you are. Nobody would Twitter if they had a strong sense of identity.”
Gee thanks for that insight. What a load of old cobblers. Bit it fits Sylvester's narrative that everyone who twitters must have something missing in their lives. She may be right about some, but it's also what MSM journalists used to say about blogging, which many of them have now either chosen to or been forced to take up. Rachel also says that "Twitter is reality TV without the pictures". I think there is a small amount of truth in that, especially when you look at those who twitter obsessively, every minute of the day. I am thinking of some of the celebrity twitterers like Stephen Fry or Philip Schofield whose every movement seems to be catalogued in too much detail. It was for that reason that I was a comparatively late developer on Twitter.
But having decided how I wanted to use it, and that I wouldn't do it too often (So far this month it has ranged between twice and seven times a day) I have grown to rather enjoy it. For me, it complements the blog brand and strengthens the feeling of community I have tried to engender within the blog. I have not gone out to tart myself around Twitter (more of this in a moment) but I seem to be getting 40 or 50 new followers each day. I now have more than 2,500, which is around a fifth of the number of people who read the blog each day. I have around 150 people whose feeds I follow on Twitter, but that number has grown too far and I am about to cut it back. Stan Collymore is about to be dumped into the Twatterbox, for instance. And not before time! He, like Jonathan Ross, suffers from Twittahhorrea.
Guido has written a very thoughtful post on the benefits of Twitter today too. He uses Twitter purely as a broadcast mechanism in order to drive more readers to his blog. His only ever tweets to advertise a new blogpost. He says...
Iain Dale positively relishes keeping us up to date with his movements - why anyone besides Mrs Fawkes would be interested in knowing that Guido was stuffing porridge into a recalcitrant 2 year old at 7.30 a.m. or Guinness into himself at 7.30 p.m. is bewildering.
I think that is to fundamentally misunderstand the medium. I don't recall ever using Twitter in such a manner (unless, as Esther Rantzen might say, you know different). Some people do use it to describe their everyday lives, as if we should be interested in what time they go to bed, or put out the cat. I try to stick to twittering about things I think - and I emphasise, the word, think - might be of interest either to my followers or blog readers. It's mainly about events I am going to, media programmes I may be appearing on (it saves a blogpost) or saying something which I think might be vaguely funny. It's as simple as that. Guido & Rachel Sylvester can dub that 'narcissistic' all they want, but is it any more narcissistic than writing a blog or a newspaper column in the belief that people might be interested in what you say? I don't think so.
But it is Guido's final point which is of most interest to me, where he cites the example of Derek Draper's use of twitter as proof of a need for self validation. Here's how he justifies the accusation...
That people care to know what the Twitterer is doing enhances their own sense of self worth. Draper feels validated and boasts (on Twitter of course) that he has more "followers" than his rivals. He has spent a lot of time canvassing thousands of Twitterers of other political commentators to build his following. Desperate. The desperation is shown by a key ratio, your followers to following ratio - your Twitter F2F ratio.And there you have the reasons why Prescott get's the internet and Draper doesn't. Even Tom Watson and Alastair Campbell seem to have adopted the Draper approach of Twitter-stalking. As Guido says, it's pretty desperate. We all know New Labour's record of massaging figures but it's almost as if they feel in need a group hug. Perish the thought. They should stop behaving like Twitter tw*ts and abide by the same Twitter conventions as everyone else.
Exhibit C: Twitter F2F ratios
John Prescott 1,410 Followers, 29 Following - 48.62
Iain Dale 2,499 Followers, 152 Following - 16.44
Tom Watson 2,518 Followers, 909 Following - 2.77
Alastair Campbell 2,567 Followers, 2,088 Following - 1.23
Derek Draper 2,918 Followers, 2,836 Following - 1.02
Look at those ratios, Prescott and Dale have healthy ratios, with a genuinely won following. Even so, following 152 other Twitterers is toppy for even always-connected Dale. Does Tom Watson really engage with 909 followers? Alastair Campbell and Derek Draper are obviously totally inauthentic spinners, they have merely followed thousands of people by deliberately Twitter-spamming Dale and Guido's Twitter followers. Automatic reciprocation grew their following completely synthetically - the incredibly low ratio is the giveaway. Prescott hasn't used artifice, his followers are genuinely interested because he is the real deal.
And purely as a point of information, if you'd like to follow my Twitter feed, click HERE.
UPDATE: Lynne Featherstone blogs HERE on why Rachel Sylvester is wrong.
UPDATE: Derek Draper's Twitter feed has been removed due to "strange activity". No further comment necessary.