Dec 072010

Yesterday, I wrote about the failure of Twitter to deliver as a medium of social engagement on issues of import.

It’s simply not a broad enough medium to permit engagement of the kind necessary for exploration of social issues, therefore cannot in truth be considered a true social medium. Engagement is what social interaction is all about and Twitter simply doesn’t offer that ability.
Yes, I still like twitter for the ad hoc ability it allows to exchange pleasantries with like minds, but in reality, it’s little more than the proverbial lamp post which all the passing dogs, usually male, urinate upon as they pass by. “All lefties suck!” , and so on. Hardly cogent social engagement, in fact, hardly social in any context.
Mediums the likes of Twitter and Facebook only encourage laziness in social engagement. Twitter more so than Facebook, purely due to its restrictive 140 character limit. At least with Facebook, one doesn’t have to suffer that restriction, although with Facebook one is only interacting with one’s ‘friends’ and while like minds are ‘nice’ to each other, there’s hardly likely to be any substance in the exchanges.
That’s why I’m such a fan of proper online forums for discussion. It’s why I’m also a fan of real time chat on IRC. You know someone is there because you can see them or their nick at least. You can also tell whether they’re active or idle, or even absent from the keyboard. Actually, when I think on it, and my past experiences with IRC, it really is the only true form of social online engagement. Unrestricted textual ability, simplistic platform, adequate server support, no complex client required and the ability to police the medium keeping the discussion(s) on topic and the participants in line. Arrogant, ignorant behaviour of the kind experienced on Twitter isn’t usually the norm on IRC. Piss off the channel operator, and you’re gone. Booted from the discussion there & then. You might be allowed back in, if you can behave, but often it’s a simple kick/ban. Bit like spraying cockroaches. Something Twitter could seriously do with.
Then there are the various messenger formats which all allow group chat sessions and have the additional benefit of voice and/or video. I can’t possibly imagine the denizens of #auspol having the gonads for voice, let alone video discussion, and that’s a good thing. The people I’ve had group discussions with in the context of managing a virtual airline were all adults, serious about their hobby and able to chat off-topic in a rational manner despite distance or differing views. We’d come together from across the globe and often at inconvenient hours due to time zone displacement, yet all were rational, logical people. If you’re serious enough to take the time & make the effort to engage in voice chat, for example, then you’re clearly worth the effort of listening to. Twitter simply doesn’t encourage that kind of engagement.
Still, as a lamp post, Twitter works just fine & for those random blithe moments when a few minutes need whiling away, #auspol fills the need just nicely.

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