The Case against Twitter

UPDATE 2011: After reading below from March 2009, readers will want to read the article Tweeter Culpa published on May 6, 2010.  A mere year later.

Guido has a Twitter account, it was set-up before Twitter cut the free broadcast-to-SMS-text service. It was, and still is, a headline feed for the blog. The idea that it is some kind of revolutionary form of social media interaction is laughable. Below is the case against political Twittery:

Exhibit A:Derek Draper claims to be the most followed political Twitterer.

Iain Dale positively relishes keeping us up to date with his movements – why anyone besides Mrs Fawkes would be interested in knowing that Guido was stuffing porridge into a recalcitrant 2 year old at 7.30 a.m. or Guinness into himself at 7.30 p.m. is bewildering.
Rachel Sylvester in The Times this morning quotes a psychologist (a real one, not Derek Draper) who hits the send button on the head;

Exhibit B: Twitter is reality TV without the pictures. There is a combination of neurosis and narcissism involved. The psychologist Oliver James has said: “Twittering stems from a lack of identity. It’s a constant update of who you are, what you are, where you are. Nobody would Twitter if they had a strong sense of identity.”

Not sure if sense of identity is the right attribute, it is more a case of self-worth stemming from attention. That people care to know what the Twitterer is doing enhances their own sense of self worth. Draper feels validated and boasts (on Twitter of course) that he has more “followers” than his rivals. He has spent a lot of time canvassing thousands of Twitterers of other political commentators to build his following. Desperate. The desperation is shown by a key ratio, your followers to following ratio – your Twitter F2F ratio.

Exhibit C: Twitter F2F ratios

John Prescott 1,410 Followers, 29 Following 48.62

Iain Dale 2,499 Followers, 152 Following16.44

Tom Watson 2,518 Followers, 909 Following2.77

Alastair Campbell 2,567 Followers, 2,088 Following1.23

Derek Draper 2,918 Followers, 2,836 Following 1.02

Look at those ratios, Prescott and Dale have healthy ratios, with a genuinely won following. Even so, following 152 other Twitterers is toppy for even always-connected Dale. Does Tom Watson really engage with 909 followers? Alastair Campbell and Derek Draper are obviously totally inauthentic spinners, they have merely followed thousands of people by deliberately Twitter-spamming Dale and Guido’s Twitter followers. Automatic reciprocation grew their following completely synthetically – the incredibly low ratio is the giveaway. Prescott hasn’t used artifice, his followers are genuinely interested because he is the real deal.Rachel Sylvester concluded that “At Westminster, [Twitter] is a symbol of a wider loss of confidence by the political class.” She has a point. Twitter is not a substitute for really engaging with people and winning them over. Political Twittering is merely a displacement activity for doing something more meaningful.




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