Twitter is an interesting tool, as many of you may know I’m a pretty avid proponent of social media and social media tools as marketing agents for a small business, Twitter being one of them. I have to admit though that as of late, Twitter is one that has caused me to pause, because I’m intrigued - and sometimes shake my head a bit - by what I see in terms of social norms and expectations, something I have termed as Twextations.
There are many ways to interact on Twitter and many reasons why a person may want to interact through the blue bird. For example, I personally love Twitter for its immediacy, for the ability to reach an incredibly large number of people at one time with a question or a query, when I find myself in a situation where other view points and experience will be helpful to me. I love the open collaborative nature of Twitter, whether using it for informal friendly conversation or to maintain discussions and dialog during specific events, conferences, and/or meetings.
Some people are using Twitter in place of instant messaging/texting. That being said, I’ll share a little bit of my Twitter expectations (yup, I admit it, I've got a few of my own). Here goes...@mouthneverstops and @alwaystalksback – when it goes beyond 16 tweets each, yes, sometimes I get annoyed. I don’t care if your going to the beach, I mean, I get it and good for you, but do I want to be watching that conversation bounced back and forth in the middle of my stream? No. Take it offline; dare to go beyond 140 characters! For the love of all things that are right in this world, please know when it’s time to switch to email or text!
Source: Licensed, via
Here's another one for you... "Big-man on campus" tweets. It happens quite a bit and sometimes I just laugh at its obnoxiousness as an attempt to show friends – ahem, tweeps – that one is “tight” with someone perceived as impressive. Ah yes, the search for social status in the Twittosphere. In my social media classes and writing, I do emphasize as one of the benefits of Twitter and social media is that it gives you the opportunity to connect with those you would never have a chance to before, but when you start bantering about simply to show you can carry a convo with them...spare me, please. And if you won't spare me, I guess I'll spare myself because Twitter has a great little tool....... BLOCK.
The real deal is this though: people can do what they want! Twitter is fast and furious and fun. If some tweets annoy me, I can just move past those tweets, laughing at their ridiculousness as I zoom by. There are a lot of rule-makers on Twitter though and groups among which social norms have developed. With these groups, many adopt an “unwritten” set of expectations as to how they think others should be interacting. And this not only applies to content, but also - which I find really amazing - to the amount of time a person and/or business should be spending on Twitter. Have you seen that? What’s your thought? Pushed you away or drew you in?
I was never one to take well to forced expectations. Case in point: there wasn’t a chance I was ever going to start a Sunday dinner ritual with the family – not that I don't love them - but if I did, I knew that after only a few consecutive Sunday’s that could easily run the risk of being translated as a tradition aka - in my mind - expectation, and I'd never be able to plan anything new on a Sunday ever again. I was raised to believe that you value the time, knowledge, and the interaction that you have with people when you’re with them, but that you don’t force an expectation translated to rules and obligations as a way of measuring their value. So for me, seeing this crop up among groups pushes me away. I have enough obligations and expectations in my daily life, I simply can not burden myself with more.
There are so many ways to interact on Twitter, there are chats, many of which occur with weekly consistency. There are informal groups that meet every day for breakfast or for wine at 5pm, and then there are those who simply use the tool at scheduled times during their day. Despite what the self-proclaimed "rule-makers" may dictate or tell you, there is no right or wrong way; it’s what works for you and what works for your business. Everyone has a different goal and a different reason for what that will be, whether it is personal or professional.
Not that long ago a received an email from someone because I was inappropriately using a Hashtag. Seriously? I was astonished. That was a pivotal moment for me, and since that time caused me to look at Twitter and the social interactions taking place in an entirely different way . It began to feel glaring to me; the number of people who held expectations beyond the basic rules of add value, interact and be social. I started to feel it was too much.
Many groups, in my perception, are beginning to subconsciously (or would it be subliminally?) enforce Twextations. That is a turn off to me. I will never post 37 tweets in an hour, 25 tweets per hour and I unfortunately can never promise that I will be online every morning at 5:30 am to have coffee with my Tweeps – though it is fun when I can. I’m usually out walking at that hour, enjoying the limited time of my day that is full of fresh air and enjoying some real-life conversation with my niece. In the same vein, yes, it is true, I unfortunately cannot participate in every Twitter chat that takes place. It’s too bad, because there are many that provide really valuable insight and information [#blogchat, #intdesignerchat, #designtv and the soon-to-launch #customwrkrmchat] .
Does this mean I don’t add value? Does it mean that I'm breaking the rules, or that I’m letting people down?
I’ve had some interesting feedback from people saying “you disappeared”, “ where are you?”, “we expect you to be here?”. I have a business, a husband, a dog, a family, daily responsibilities and obligations that are my here and now, and where I need to be present. If I’m not drinking my morning coffee with you on Twitter, it’s probably because I’m sitting across the table having it with my husband or I’m out walking with my niece. If I’m not on an evening chat it’s probably because I’m on an appointment, having dinner or I’m sleeping. If I’m not tweeting every minute of every hour of every day its simply because I’m working, living, and spending time with the people who are right next to me or in front of me. So I’m sorry if I’ve let you down, I’m just trying to live my life in balance. Please, don’t take it personally.
I think it's just the natural progression of anything new - that lead me to step back and look at Twitter from a different lens. It's hard to avoid being overly involved with social media when you first begin, but as time goes on you have to reevaluate and see how to fit it into your life with the best balance.
I have made some incredible contacts and have expanded my network of business colleagues, all of whom I value greatly; but at the same time I've had to step back from Twitter to reevaluate and strive for greater balance. Honestly, it has been since receiving that email relative to hashtag use, and seeing so many comments/feedback about what people should and shouldn’t do relative to the amount of time they spend on Twitter, that initiated the change. I come from such a huge family, I have many interests and I work A LOT! Having so many people in my life and always so much going on, I’ve always found it necessary to have time by myself, with no noise, interruptions; without need to be in constant dialogue. Don’t get me wrong, I can talk (ask my husband), and I love to meet new people, but I require limits on my time – both online and offline.
We all only have so many hours in the day. If I’m sitting at the dinner table and tweeting while my husband, friends or guests are sitting across the table, what kind of value am I’m providing to the most important relationships in my life?
So let me ask you, is social media playing the role that it’s supposed to be playing in your life? Are you being successful at setting boundaries and maintaining limits? I’m really curious and would love to hear your feedback.
I still love Twitter and I am working toward new goals that will keep me focused on the areas I am passionate about, while at the same time keeping things in balance for me. So I encourage you, while I also caution you, if you are new to Twitter, be aware you may experience Twextations, from others, as well as yourself. Don't give up though, step back and reevaluate. It's a great tool with great people and tremendous value.
You may want to think of it like a new exercise program. Take it slow if you need to and know that balance may not be immediate, but can be strived for!