UPDATE: Just 12 hours after I posted this entry, the Straits Times’ online team accidentally posted a vulgar comment on their Twitter account, which went “omg. XXXX you all. seriously”. It was no April Fool’s joke and their competitor Today was more than happy to tell the world what happened. ST did the right thing to come clean with the public in their print edition on 2 April (see above excerpt). Obviously someone mixed up their personal Twitter account with the company’s. This is exactly what I meant when people lose their inhibitions when they post hastily online. In the first place, you shouldn’t even be tweeting vulgarities like that on a personal basis! Twitter is really more trouble than it is worth, and most companies/brands have little idea about the risks and challenges involved when they say “We must get on Twitter!”
I’ve had a firm belief for several years that Twitter is a mere fad that will die out sooner than later. I continue to think the same, despite the fact that Twitter is still pretty popular.
Here’s my beef: Twitter encourages the removal of mental filters. To the point where it can actually ruin your reputation in the long term.
The very nature of the 140-character limit creates a very consistent behavior in the tweets that many people post (at least some of those that I follow). If you disagree with my points below, then you’re probably not whom I’m referring to (great disclaimer eh?).
In the unwitting desperation to fill the space more frequently than any other social media platform (ie. Facebook), people tend to post more thoughts than they would usually share with other people in the same room.
I see so many tweets that really shouldn’t be posted, even to a limited audience. People tweet about the most inane things (“I need to fart”), the most private things (“I need to shave that armpit), and the most personal things (“So happy that XXX is no longer in our social circle!”).
The same thing happens on Facebook too, but with much less frequency because it appears that people tend to put more thought into their FB postings (perhaps due to the more generous word limit).
Actually it’s not really very different from the early days of bloggers (early 2000s) when bloggers kept posting every little thing on their minds. Many blogs have become abandoned because their authors just couldn’t sustain a regular rate of rants, whines and aimless writing. But Twitter allows people to post mere snippets instead of paragraphs, that’s much more sustainable.
There’s often a degradation in the quality of tweets over time. As tweeting becomes more habitual, one may just post anything that comes to mind.
In the current age of social media, there’s only one word that really matters: CURATION.
Because anything you post online becomes more or less permanent, impression management becomes more critical than ever. And as all good journos and PR people know, what most people think of you is what little you let them know. The info that we tweet, comment or post must be curated carefully.
So even though I post on Facebook frequently (several times a day), I do spend more time thinking about whether I should actually do so.
I have several guiding principles with posting stuff online and how it should be curated
- I don’t talk about office matters or business partners
- I don’t talk about personal and family matters
- I don’t get personal with anyone online.
- I try to post things that I would want to read from someone else
So far, so good!
And on Twitter, since I don’t tweet often, I’ve recently tried an experiment to curate what I really want people to see on Twitter : my automated Nike+ running updates!
For people who don’t know me well, they might think I’m either really boring and that I have no life. But they don’t know it’s completely different on Facebook…but my FB posts are blocked to most people anyway. That’s also curation – deciding who you want to broadcast to.
I believe Facebook will easily outlast Twitter, thanks to its multimedia capabilities and lack of character limits. I’m already getting all the friend updates and news updates that I need through FB, and Twitter is a pale shadow of what FB can do. Both are real-time, both are viral, but one is crippled in so many ways.
The most important thing though, is to not let any of these two platforms cripple you ability to sift through your thoughts carefully and ask if you really do want people reading the darkest recesses of your subconscious.