Last night I spoke at “My Dad’s on Twitter but he doesn’t know why” – part of Fazeley Digital ’09. Part lecture, part performance, the idea was to mind map some current thinking about Twitter by writing on a wall in an empty studio space. I’ve written a blog post about the process of the event on the new MA Social Media blog but wanted to also reflect on some of the content here on the IC blog.
The four speakers that led the discussion (Dave Harte, Marc Reeves, Jacki Booth, and I) were asked to use the title “My Dad’s on Twitter but he doesn’t know why” as a launchpad to discuss social media and Twitter in particular.
- Marc Reeves, Editor of the Birmingham Post & Mail, discussed corporate uses of Twitter
- Dave Harte, from Digital Birmingham, discussed rules, etiquette and the fear of failure for new Twitter users
- Jaki Booth, BCU Student Union Manager, described her personal Twitter experience, how it has helped her to meet colleagues at BCU that she would never have met and discussed the notion of expertise
My approach to the talk was to play on the central title “My Dad’s on Twitter but he doesn’t know why”. I played with this to come up with four new titles, based on things I hear people say:
- My Dad’s not on Twitter:
- People often apologise to me for not being on Twitter. I don’t mind. It’s not mandatory. In digital culture seminar sessions I have heard some undergraduates describe how peer pressure is all that keeps them active in social networks: even Facebook, which we tend to commonly think of as being a universal network amongst students (and much of society) was seen by some as a necessary social burden.
- My Dad shouldn’t be on Twitter:
- Many people don’t want their parents on Facebook or Twitter (many more love that they are). Your Dad being on Twitter doesn’t break Twitter. It doesn’t make your worlds collide. There are many communities on Twitter and each individual is a member of many of them. If you’re a Twitter user just think about the different groups and interests of your friends. Some of them might like jazz, some might like to tweet about food. They might never even know each other are there, but you can chat to them all through Twitter without losing any street cred – especially now the @replies feature has changed on Twitter
- Why should my Dad be on Twitter?
- My Dad would join Twitter if there was something there that was of interest to him. It might even benefit him. I’ve rebuilt my professional network in the past 12-months (since I moved back to the University) and Twitter was a key tool in doing that. My parents live in a pretty isolated place, and Mum doesn’t like going out much anymore because there’s a busy road she has to cross twice. Chatting on Twitter might help alleviate some of that isolation, and it would allow them to check up on me (and vice versa) outside the two or three conversations a week. We’d talk a lot more and that has to be a good thing.
- Why should my Dad be on Twitter?
- Twitter isn’t the only social network – it’s just the one that shouts loudest at the moment. There’s more stuff out there, and there’s things that might work for my Dad better than Twitter does. Jaki’s daughter was live blogging our event on Club Penguin – a social network aimed at younger children. Message boards, chat rooms and even Usenet groups are still out there. Widen the options if you want people to get involved.
I have an unwritten rule not to blog or tweet about Twitter unless I can avoid it. This event and the two blog posts it generated have broken that rule, so I’ll try not to talk about Twitter too much in the coming weeks. I really do think that Twitter is an interesting place to use and to have intellectual conversations about, but as several people have said in the past: social media will only really start being useful when we start doing it and stop talking about it all the time.