Sunday, 2 January 2011

Falling Out of Love with Tweeting Politicos

iLove twitter. iReally Do. it's been a great way for me to connect with people from all over the planet and access the news before it makes the papers or have the news-stories and opinion delivered to you in 140 characters or less. but lately it's beginning to feel like one big orgy fest or en masse ego tripping in real time. for some well known people (and i use the term well known quite loosely here to mean anyone with over 1000 non-spambot followers and has appeared in the media counts as well known, in their respective circles), it's a rat race: some are on a mission to get the highest number of followers, while others are consistently tweeting about the highest number of retweets because they've dropped the most profound bit of knowledge of the moment. once is fine, but twice, thrice, boasting much? ...otoh, lesser known mortals tweet to trending topics to have their voice heard and up their followers. i do this too and it's fun when there's a programme everyone's watching on tv or a game is trending like #politicalfilms or #celebperfumes. i'm not sure if everyone reads the links i post or pays attention to what i say, but i'm thankful to those that do and those that engage me in conversation. for those that don't see my tweet, 10 minutes or 10 hours later someone else will post the same link and perhaps express a similar observation. so that's not so bad. depending on who you follow, there's a constant flow of information and/or opinion, empty feel-good & 'i just fed my cat' tweets, notwithstanding. however, as i use twitter more frequently, having grown tired of mark zuckerberg's orwellian tracking of one's every move on facebook, i've come to realise there is also a bad side to twitter. it's very cliquey. most people i follow are journalists, bloggers, activists, writers or politically informed people, others are friends, some celebrities, and some witty people and spoofs who are just the funniest! you'd think it would be the celebs that bug me, but it's the established politicos who have this 'i tweet you, you tweet me', among themselves. some of them are nice and respond to you, some even follow back, but there are those who don't often respond to anyone outside their circle. ironically these people tout themselves as lefties, neutrals, radicals, revolutionaries or progressives, but they maintain their exclusivity. it might be none of my business who people choose and choose not to follow, but when the ratio of followers: followed is disproportionate i.e 10 000 followers, 100 following - such glaring contradictions should be criticised. as if that wasn't enough some even make the public appeal for more followers (e.g. i have 5600 followers i need 400 more, help me twitter) WTF??? do these people ever stop to check who follows them, do they know what their followers have to say, do they even care? i'm friggin tired of some of these self-confessed lefties, radicals and progressives:
1. begging for followers. 
2. hosting in-crowd convos among themselves. as valid as their insights maybe in these back n forths, it's the ignoring of other people that irks me - ask, how i know? the new version of twitter shows who's responded on a particular tweet and how the conversation plays out. 
3. recommending each other as is the tradition of #followfriday. that's normally the biggest orgy fest of the week unless something big has happened then they'll endlessly tweet amongst themselves. 
if these people are progressives and radicals, genuinely trying to dissolve power hierarchies then surely they know that dissolution of power begins with conversation and engagement with everyone at every level. if the same names keep being hashed up in retweets or recommended follows then that sustains hierarchy rather than dismantling it. in this way twitter becomes a simultaneously segregated and joined up space of digital interaction. i may know what politico X is thinking but politico X does not necessarily know my thoughts, but we are featured together in the same hashtags and trendlists. so that's the dilemma how do people become more interactive so tweeting isn't just a futile exercise of typing letters into the ether? answer: #followback. i know of at least three well-known politically minded people who explicitly state that they operate on the principle of engaging everyone and they do it. why don't others? what's the point of having followers if you don't talk to them and you continue to regurgitate the same opinions but with new hashtags and links? funny thing is some of the celebs i follow do more talking to their followers than these progressives n radicals. the good celebs (like @noelclarke & @questlove, @lupefiasco even hosts a mini bookclub!) and even spoofs (like @katieweasel) try to have some daily discussion with their followers and although i don't often participate, it's nice to see the interaction going on. 90% of the time these people are not promoting their stuff but do it just to talk to people, so why don't others do it? even the dalai lama follows no one but he tweets about the essence of dialogue. 
on 26 december @dalailama tweeted: 'in order to create a happy century, a peaceful century we must promote the concept of dialogue.'
yea, His Holiness's great dialogue skills amount to 1 192 144 followers: following 0. numerically he's on par with @kanyewest and @chipmunk who follow no one, but the big difference is they actually TALK to people!
...if i've been sounding like some bitter, unrequited lover, i accept that might be 100% true BUT that doesn't change my point that there is presently something wrong with the concept of twitter as a forum for open, multiple conversations when only selected names continue to dominate timelines because certain people only want to talk amongst themselves and retweet each other. granted, people don't necessarily realise that this is what ends up happening and perhaps if they did, things would change. imo, it'd be nice if twitter's #followfriday was actually #followbackfriday and some of these people followed back and recommended different followers who have something interesting to say rather than just keeping it in the family. maybe an #openthreadfriday could be a possibility. #openthreadfriday would allow for anyone to tweet in the timelines of people they follow although i'm not sure how this would work for those with over 5 000 followers, it might be chaotic, but i'm sure a technological remedy out there. something has to be done for twitter or tweeters to develop a more interactive system than the one currently in place - less local orgy fest, more open conversation. #2011rules.

*i used political categorisations to encompass the different groups of people on my feed. analysing people's behaviour  by global location wouldn't really work as these people share more or less the same views and behave in similar ways.


Jay said...

I don't get twitter and all the hype, but why don't you just stop following these people? If you continue to follow it means you consent to the rat race.

KonWomyn said...

Your're right blud, I should just unfollow them, I'll still have plenty of news sources and the politicos who talk-back on my timeline. Here I wanted to point out that Twitter's not as much a revolutionary open dialogue forum as people make it out to be. I can understand celebs ignoring people, but when lefty politicos and the Dalai Lama don't, it's too incredible to ignore & just unfollow.
Feel me?