When it first came out, I signed up. A friend invited me. The kind of friend whose judgment you trust. So yeah- I accepted the invite.
But because I had trouble understanding the necessity of letting the world know what I was up to every second of the day, my commitment began and ended with the sign up. Mine therefore, remained one of those accounts that had the default avatar, with not a single tweet to my egg- for years.
Four or so years later, everyone is talking about twitter. And apparently for good reasons- this is where news breaks; this is where conversation are had. How can I not be ‘there’?!? Had my perceptions been wrong all along?
More importantly, I am now running a business. Being on Twitter is part of the job- the part that helps a business to self promote and network. In other words, I can’t be running a business and not NOT be on Twitter. So I start to closely monitor my company’s account. At the same time, I revive my personal account. I ditch the egg, replace it with a human face. I have officially hatched!
My resuscitated account asks me to tell the world something. This is my first tweet so I have to make it count. Except, I am still a chick and can’t think of anything intelligent to say, so I go with the default tweet, no doubt created for people like me: “Just setting up my twitter. #my first tweet.
I start searching for people to follow. I am impressed with the bios I see: “Living my life to make a difference” one says “Humanity lover” another says. “Seeker of truth”. Definitely the kinds of people I want to follow. Definitely the kinds of people I want to attract. So it’s in this spirit that I try to capture my essence- keep it succinct, keep it intellectual and keep it real. So my bio goes something like this: “I have chosen to spend the rest of my life searching deeper, thinking harder and creating more”. Sounds rather cheesy, I know. And the more I read it, the cheesier it sounds. Still, I figure this is me reminding myself about the expectations I have for who I want to be. I limit the number I will follow to less than 15. Just so I can keep up.
Indeed, there are interesting things going on in this space. And I no longer need to wait for the top of the hour to find out what is happening and where it is happening. A few of my friends start following me back and I choose more people to follow. Not necessarily friends, just people who appear to lead interesting lives.
With my personal account, I now find it easier to keep up with the terminologies that my social media manager dishes at the office. As far as twitter is concerned, I am nobody’s fool.
Things are going great.
The company I manage is under siege. Someone is angry with us. Not because we are a good for nothing business that has no business being in business, but because it took us more than 3 hours to respond to her query- which she raised on twitter.
Never mind that it was a Sunday and we were at home living real and not online lives. Never mind that I responded to her concerns personally on email, the minute the matter was brought to my attention. Never mind that the claims she had made on twitter could not be backed by real evidence.
She does not bother to get to the truth of the matter. She is angry and she is angry NOW- you know that 2 year old tantrum angry- yep, that’s what her tweets read like. And because twitter limits the number of characters you can use in a single tweet -perhaps to deter people like this woman- she tweets and tweets and tweets, every minute she is spewing vitriol on twitter. She solicits for and gets retweets. And out come the trolls- in their droves. Up until this point, I didn’t know the world consisted of so many nasty people who could all be online at the same time. I mean these are people who have not a clue what is actually going on but they are determined to tear my company, myself and my staff to shreds. They are mean and they are loud. My Sunday no longer belongs to me but to twitter. I am sucked into petty battles and distracted from the important things in my life. Monday, same thing. Tuesday, same thing. It ends on Wednesday afternoon. No doubt because the trolls have found some other brighter sun- and it’s shining exactly where they can make hay- a misshap from a celebrity. Oh how they lurve celebrity scandal. I am relieved that they have left me and mine alone but I feel bad for the poor celebrity who is now on their radar.
Mine lasted 3 days. 3 days in which I was chasing things that were irritating the hell out of me. 3 days of hoping to correct every misconception and lie about my business. 3 days where there was little productivity from me.
My entire week was ruined, my optimism about twitter started to fade…
But not enough to make me quit. Just enough to keep me wary.
Weeks later, the Kenyan media ‘refuses’ to cover a political rally from the opposition because…well, we guess the incumbent government had a lot to do with that decision. But I was curious to find out what the rally was really about, so I resorted to twitter. Here I updated myself by following #sabasabarally. It was empowering that we could get the better of the government, with all its misconceived notions on how much power it actually wields. Kudos twitter.
Much as we had the people on the ground empowering us with information, we also had the bullies in their bedrooms or wherever the hell twitter trolls operate from- doing their rounds. And because #sabasabarally was trending, they were riding on its success to tear down others’ freedoms, belittling people from specific communities with nasty, hurtful, unfounded and useless messages… Perhaps to boost their self-esteem? I don’t know. All I know is at the end of the day, after following #sabasabarally, I felt more drained than empowered.
Twitter might have been created with nothing but good intentions but it has become a dark place. The fact that it allows one to give their views in under 140 characters, means most views are in fact off-the-cuff, poorly considered comments. There is nothing wrong with asking questions, seeking information and calling out people on their bullshit- I’m all for it. It’s just not possible to do all this with 140 characters that include a bunch of symbols. I quite like reading the provocative one liner and then clicking through to get the thought process behind it. If it is controversy, then I want to know the pros and cons, the reasoning behind it. Then I will agree with this and disagree with that and finally make up my own mind as to where I stand. With this structure, there is structure. People have to think… and reason… and backup their views. So with a piece such as this one, I will pose my statement in under 140 characters but then back it up with my thoughts via a link. The statement “I am not sure I like twitter after all” doesn’t end there, there is a why, and this here, what I am writing, is it. Of course there are exceptions with quotes, facts, genuine questions and the like. The like that could give rise to thoughtful debate, not merely insidious and intentionally controversial sound bites- that in fact do nothing to further the already wanting levels of proper grammar use. Oh the grammar, don’t even get me started on that one.
I really believe that twitter was created for the ‘seekers of truth’ and ‘humanity lovers’ but with time, like everything that gives too much power and too much freedom to human kind, it is has been abused and has become a forum for abuse.
Which begs the question, have I ditched twitter yet? No. Why not? Well for one, twitter is not the actual evil. The evil is the proverbial bad eggs in the basket. Perhaps if more of the ‘lovers of humanity’ and ‘seekers of truth’ came out and came out loud enough to expunge the bad eggs, we could have the twitter that was always meant to be. Because as you we all know, all that is necessary for evil to triumph, is that good men do nothing. Now there is a sound bite worth tweeting.