Twitter: The many faces of social media users
A few months ago, I received a message from a friend saying something along the lines of ‘You haven’t tweeted in a while, is everything OK?’ – At first it seemed like such a random thing to say. Does tweetlessness indicate illness?
He did have a point, I’d been overworked, and as a result I had zero social life for a couple of months. It was probably one of the most productive times I’ve had in the past few years, yet it must have seemed to my Facebook / Twitter sphere like I was hibernating in a dark cave somewhere, because I wasn’t documenting my every move.
Tweeto ergo sum: I guess that may be part of the social networking hypocrisy today: Sharing, posting, adding – any sign of ‘activity’ becomes a sign of life, a sign of well-being. But it also means that at that very moment of the ‘activity being documented’, the user is at their computer, tablet, or phone. Is that ‘living’? It could be interpreted as a sign of boredom, or dare I say it, a shout for attention?
I was once giving a piano lesson to a student of mine who asked me what a hashtag G was – he was of course referring to a G sharp. I thought it was quite funny, a sign of our times, so I as made my way home, I took to my phone to relate the tale. The anecdote never made it to my social network: I was so engrossed trying to make the story fit in 140 characters that I walked straight into a (giant) tree and almost knocked myself out, much to the amusement of a large group of men sat in a beer garden across the road. (This story took place a couple of years ago, back in the days when Londoners didn’t have to wear wellies in July).
Not content with public humiliation, posting a picture of the enormous resulting lump on my forehead actually crossed my mind. Thankfully I restrained myself (I was on the tube by that point, and there was no signal. Also there was no way I’d fit the whole story in 140 characters now).
That’s one way of using social networking. Sharing and making a joke out of something really quite embarrassing somehow makes it all better. Or at least, it makes it seems so. From what I’ve observed, there are several other types of users:
He or she is generally a creative individual, has thousands of friends, and views Facebook and Twitter as promotion. This user will invite everyone and anyone in their network to their gigs / exhibitions, regardless of whether the invitee even lives on the same continent as the event. They are the first to post reviews and interviews of themselves (I sadly display many aspects of that behaviour).
The window shopper:
Keen to retweet, quote and like – This is the first person to comment on your posts, (eg ‘Oh Anne, only you could accidentally sit on a mars bar… LOL!’) – yet they never write anything silly about themselves. Often these people will tag hundreds of pictures of their friends looking worse for wear, yet never appear themselves in any of them. Cowards.
Sharing his / her every move on words with friends / drawsome / poker etc. Riveting stuff.
I’m sorry but it’s true. Some people like to show off. A lot. Cute pictures of them aged 4, beautiful wedding albums… What about acne-ridden teenage-hood, the morning after the hen do… Where are those photos?
Signing up to a social networking site is a bit like having a mirror tailor-made, where you can choose how much of yourself the looking-glass will reflect, embellish, or simply conceal. No matter how seriously or not we take the likes of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, we do all choose the information we put on there. Everyone when quizzed will admit that you can’t trust everything you read on social networks, for that exact reason: it’s user controlled, and so inevitably people want to come across as their best. It’s Pygmalion to a certain extent.
Deep down, even the ‘comedy user’, the person who shares funny pictures or embarrassing stories (like the one of me and the tree) shows a narcissistic trait, no matter how self deprecating the incident is. They think about the delivery of the story, as if they were sharing a joke in the pub – invariably, they’re hoping people will laugh (Iike). It serves as validation, just like a comment that says: ‘you look great in that picture’.
I somehow have more friends on Facebook than phone numbers in my address book, seems ridiculous, but it’s true, and I’m probably not the only one. As the bulk of our communication is increasingly made through social networks, I foresee two pitfalls:
The first is that we may end up relying on social network for conversation, developing numerous acquaintances, and missing out on those rare, deeper friendships.
The second is that we may lose sight of who we are, become defined by, and try to live up to the very image and perception which we created of ourselves.
This of course, is pure speculation.
One thing is certain though: Don’t walk and tweet.
Anne Chmelewsky is a writer and composer.
Her show Through The Looking Screen – A One Woman Opera about Stalking Love on the Internet is playing at the Underbelly in August as part of the Edinburgh Fringe.Tagged in: facebook, Social media, tweet, twitter
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