A quick plug for this blogpost from @TheNatFantastic who is someone I almost met in 2011 but didn’t quite… In the post she lists people she met via Twitter in 2011, ie met in real life, quite a few of whom I’ve also met during the past year.
Too often people who don’t use social media but who want to squeeze yet another tedious column out of it will argue that it’s a substitute for real life relationships, that people are all trapped in their own little boxes, probably still wearing their pyjamas at 4 in the afternoon, talking to virtual ‘friends’ online, thinking that they’re really bonding with people they’ve never met. And that they should get out and get a life. Nat’s piece proves just the opposite – that Twitter is a great way of making new friendships and in staying in touch with them afterwards, and, who knows, perhaps making good things happen as a result of that. I’ve been to gigs in 2011 with people I’ve met over Twitter, I’ve kept in touch with people I’d otherwise only bump into once or twice a year, and I organised a widely-accepted to have been absolutely fabulous Tweet up at Labour conference where hundreds of Labour tweeters met each other for the first time. (Which reminds me, got to get a venue for Labour 2012 tweet-up sorted). It’s also clear from my timeline that there are loads of people out there, Labour activists in particular, who ‘met’ through Twitter and have since formed firm friendships.
I have got rather fed up with Twitter at times during 2011, especially not being able to shake off that damn stupid ‘Twitter tsar’ tag (journos, please call Louise Mensch instead if you want a Twitter quote, or Tom Watson or Stella Creasy or any one of the 300+ MPs on Twitter who might actually have something original to say about it) and also the increasing tendency for otherwise very nice people to spam tweet requests to sign a petition, or RT a link. I probably follow at least 200 MPs on Twitter, so if I also follow you and you’re tweeting every single MP individually about something, well that’s 200 tweets in my timeline that I don’t really want to see… And it doesn’t really work as a way of mobilising people to your cause. First rule of lobbying – you need to build relationships with your ‘targets’ first. One MP who cares is worth 20 who reluctantly RT.
I also get quite a lot of private requests – by DM, email or text (the over-enthusiastic new-to-Twitter colleague who kept texting me about his great tweets at 7.30am has now learnt NOT to do that) – to RT things, which can in the end make Twitter feel rather too much like work. RTs should be a spontaneous thing, of thinking something’s great and deserving of wider attention. Admittedly I don’t see everything that comes into my timeline – I follow too many people and don’t spend all day on Twitter, contrary to popular opinion – and so I don’t mind the occasional attempt to make sure something comes to my particular attention, but at times it gets out of hand. And if your whole feed is RT-ing things, then I think people get a bit bored…
But anyway, roll on 2012 – and hope I’ll be on Nat’s list this time next year. Will have to be on my best behaviour when we meet.