The #Absurdity of #Twitter

Despite the hype and inescapable omniscience of social media, perhaps like me, your not entirely convinced of the merits of using Twitter; the literary equivalent of having chronic dysentery, which you feel duty bound and compelled to enjoy.

TwitterI guess I started tweeting nearly a couple of years ago, and did so because quite frankly it was just there, and I was intrigued. I also noted that there were a couple of great people I knew who had started a few months before me. So I thought I’d give it a try and see what all the fuss is about. Apart from crafting ones own 140 character monologues, the game is one of attaining a large number of followers in order to broaden the reach of your little nano thoughts, which in turn broadens your reach etc. There is no stopping this game until everyone on earth is following you. (Apparently). Most of your followers however will never read, interact or retweet anything you say, although your large number of followers will look as if you are worth following, and so the game plays on.

It wasn’t long before I had a few hundred followers myself, and I was conversing with wild digital abandon with total strangers on all manner of workplace and related subjects. My preferred topic though was often on the subject of music, books or movies. The sharing of views on our more personal passions is often an opening into our true and more authentic selves, even in workplace design, HR and FM circles. The act of being genuine on Twitter is expressing yourself without artifice and affectation. Knowing your subject is less than half the story of anyone’s abilities in a commercial workplace context. Not being a predictable, prosaic bore also plays a big part in attracting followers and dare I say admirers of your output. It’s funny how folks who are charmless boring idiots think that they can become debonnaire and interesting on twitter. Eh, ‘fraid not. Once a chump, always a chump.

How often have any of us read or heard some idiot say I’m really passionate about workplace design, or people or HR or FM. Oh seriously! Give us all a break! Anyone who exclaims they’re passionate about anything is generally passionate about bugger all, and is a very poor sales person besides. I’ve been practicing in workplace design since the early 1980’s and there are many many achievements and yes, even mistakes and errors of judgement along the way, but I can say that despite vocational interior design training, focussed diligence, great projects and working with great firms and people, I am NOT passionate about workplace design. I know it, understand it, communicate it well and work hard at it. It’s often even enjoyable, but very often deeply frustrating and difficult, for many reasons. Not to forget poorly paid too.

Passion for anything occurs within us and works silently on us driving our actions and thoughts. Saying out loud that we are passionate is like waving a big red flag and declaring your shallow credentials. “Ooh! Like me, follow me! I’m passionate and really really nice too!” Whether design, FM, HR or my personal favourite…”people”. Who on earth says they’re passionate about people? Pass me the sick bag.

The Office - Series 2Ricky Gervais for me coined a perfect phrase in a Christmas special of ‘The Office’ a few years ago. His character David Brent had arranged a blind date at a local bar in Slough, and upon realizing that the unattractive woman walking towards him was his date he turned to camera and in that same instant, looked to us the viewer and exclaimed under his breath “Oh for f&@*s sake!” We can’t quite make out the expletive because he didn’t actually enunciate the word, but the impression is that he did. It was a perfect and quite shameless comedy reaction to his disappointment at recognizing that he was obliged to see the date through. He was trapped socially, and had to feign interest and devote polite time going through the motions. I often have the same reaction on reading some of the self congratulatory Twitter bio’s of others, and indeed much of the tweets. See if you think Ricky Gervais little reactionary phrase works on these twitter pearls;

“What a beautiful day. Happy Monday everyone”

“Workplace design is critical to effectiveness”

“Satisfaction statistics key indicator of productivity”

“Quiet spaces critical to concentration”

“95% of workers rate their chair as very important”

“Collaboration spaces key to encouraging creativity”

“Gen Y & Millennials have different expectations”

“Retweet if you love what you do #business”

– Oh for f&@*s sake! Right? The most irritating tweet above for me is actually the most innocuous as it sums up the utter pointless stupidity of Twitter. “What a beautiful day, Happy Monday everyone”. Someone firstly had the thought, they then logically concluded I’m going to publish this thought on twitter to my 5,000 followers, or whatever it is, and then they’ll read it, and some will even retweet it, and that retweet will be retweeted again. Add up the time and resources employed in publishing this joyous little harmless statement and millions like it, and their millions of retweets and maybe you too will say to yourself “Oh for f&@*s sake!”. Why?

Although, don’t get me wrong if your having a conversation on twitter it’s slightly less cringe worthy, but no less pointless than exulting ad nauseam the merits of your most recent witty and intellectual nano post. There isn’t an hour in any day that you cant track a pointless circular argument between two people or more who are generally using different words and phrases to assert (Passionately?) what is essentially a commonly held point of view. Etiquette demands of course that you don’t really say what you think as that wouldn’t be playing the game. It’s OK to debate openly on Twitter if you accept that there is no subtlety of tone or expression to support and finesse your point, no normal social interaction, it doesn’t really work the same way on Twitter as it does in real life. If you do find you’re in opposition to another’s viewpoint and you feel strongly, it’s nigh on impossible to see the discussion through to a logical and reasonable conclusion. So best to just lightly oppose where you feel you need to; better still just agree with everyone or avoid those with whom you are likely to disagree. That way you will circle your wagons with like minded individuals who share your values and preoccupations. OK, so once in a while just for appearances sake have a debate with a follower about a topic that you think you have opposing views upon, but lets be honest you know you don’t really care. Your just glad someone is talking to you, and found you mildly interesting for a few fleeting moments.

Dale CarnegieI’m now convinced that Twitter is predominantly a channel for celebrities, governments, and corporations to punt their latest offering. For the rest of humanity I have a quote which ironically comes via Twitter from Andrew Lewis “If you are not paying for it, your not the customer; your the product being sold.” Good huh? Equally, It used to be said that nobody would want the phrase “I wish I’d spent more time at the office” carved on their headstone. I think the same is true these days of Twitter use.

Take a break for a while, trust me you’ll still get more followers, that’s how daft it is, but more importantly you’ll also get more stuff done …in the real world!

The Office courtesy of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant…

7 thoughts on “The #Absurdity of #Twitter

  1. its about time some folk voiced a bit if well-meaning dissent about the true merits of Twitter. Take a leaf out of (Whoa!) Nellie Furtado’s book – she went ‘Twitter Cold Turkey’ for 6 months to plumb the depths of creativity for her last album…..which, as I have not heard the album, can’t comment on whether this was a good/ bad thing (!) But this view was also reinforced by Larry Sanders’ cloying side-kick, Hank Kinglsey……(or rather, the actor Jeffrey Tambor) who, commenting in a recent interview about Gen FB/ Twitter, said, ….”I really don’t care that you’ve just bought a grape!”. It’s seems to me that Twitter is the vehicle for the attention-seeking/ attention- deficit disorder society we’re living in and probably needs to shed another skin before its truly useful in a business context. Try saying that in 140 characters or less.

  2. Pingback: Twitter – the new school playground | Mark Catchlove's Blog

  3. I think you have over-egged the pudding. Twitter is what it is; banter, a chat over the virtual garden fence, a chance to make a joke (we do not laugh enough in this country & are in need of improving our sense of humour).
    To say Twitter is for self-promoting celebrities or those who wish they were celebs is not true, sure this happens as it does in any media. But it is also a platform for important events to be shared e.g. what is going on in Egypt & India.
    From my point of view & being extremely “passionate” about my work as a writer, I have not only been able to reach a larger audience, but also secured new work, clients & opportunities that I would not otherwise have found.
    Twitter is what it is but it really isn’t worth getting in a lather which you seem to be doing.

  4. I think you completely miss the point about all this – or at least the bigger picture. One of the most important factors is only mentioned briefly by you:

    “The sharing of views on our more personal passions is often an opening into our true and more authentic selves, even in workplace design, HR and FM circles.”

    What people are doing on twitter is not new – its thousands of years old. Social media is just another outlet for it – humans connecting. The difference is that SM, unlike say CB radio, internet relay chat, chat rooms etc has gone mainstream. Sure, there is a lot of shit on twitter, and a lot of bores and brands and marketers and independent consultants etc etc using the channel to talk complete bollocks. But to tar the medium and everyone else with the same brush is simply small minded and ignores the bigger picture.

    The social evolution is creating a mapped dialogue of conversation across these channels that will become hugely valuable. These conversations, or stories, or innane shite, whatever you want to call them contain data. Hedgefunds are now investing their cash based on sentiment drawn from twitter. Yes, that very same bollocks you mention here. The very same kind of conversation maps are alos being used to predict behaviour and performance in both consumers and employees.

    Notwithstanding all of that, to come back to the quote i picked out above from your post, twitter and other platforms like it are driving a level of transparency and authenticity that has previously not been possible. Organisations, leaders and even governments are being bought to account through these mediums and the implications are significant. Sadly, most organisations for example just cannot see the implications and instead, spend most of the time whining about SM.

    Finally, my hand is up as someone who is actually passionate about people. Actually, im am passionate about human behaviour and how this translates into our work and personal lives. Im fortunate for this to be my job too 😉

    Love the debate and thanks for sharing your view, but I cant agree!

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