Why my research is in Twitter

“Twitter’s a fad.”twitter

“The young kids use Twitter because they don’t want to have a real conversation.”

“Twitter is destroying society.”

“How do you know they’re real?”

“I really don’t care that much about what you’re doing all day.”

I’ve heard it all. From all types of people.

The only people who truly understand Twitter are those who are using it regularly, and have overcome the barriers to acceptance that it inherently presents as a tool of technology.

Academics don’t get Twitter. Including many of those doing research into social media.

Twitter represents a new way of communication. After lifestreaming on Twitter for over two years and researching it for over 12 months,  I understand the nuances of the communities on it, and have watched it morph as it has moved from being a geek tool to a plaything of the mainstream.

I’ve seen people pretend to be people they’re not. Consciously and unconsciously. Romances, flirtations and breakups. Proposals, business endeavours, connections – and their destruction. Lonely and socially inept people have connected with high flyers and leaders. I’ve watched as people going through the most intense pain of their lives have dared to share emotion and feeling that they’d never divulge to their closest friends in a physical sense. I’ve seen Twitterers decide, recently, that “in real life” friends and online friends really are the same thing. For many, normal people, physical presence does not matter any more.

In 2010 I’ll be completing my thesis in the communities of mombloggers on Twitter. I’m particularly looking at some individuals who have had things happen to them that we just don’t talk about in society. People who are judged through horrid newspaper reporting that does nothing more than enable the middle class and other everyone who doesn’t fit their beige lives. People in pain. Who perhaps with Twitter have found reason to keep going, found some sense of support they didn’t have available “in real life” – and through whose journey the rest of the community is learning more about things that often get swept under the carpet. Death. Abuse. Homelessness. Why some women hate others, and appropriate responses to companies and those we don’t understand.

It’s hard.

My big wish for my work in 2010 is that I can somehow do some justice to the women in the communities of Twitter, and give them the opportunity to be heard and appreciated. I can see the opportunities and topics for my PhD dissertation being unveiled, without my pushing them.

I know it won’t be easy when some decide to be contemptuous.

But I’m ready.

5 comments

  • I hope you’ll share your work. I can hardly wait to read your insights! Let’s vow to be the exception to the rule that academics don’t “get” Twitter.

  • I have friends on Twitter that still don’t really post much, but do check in occassionally to see what I’m up to. I have other friends that aren’t on twitter at all who watch my stream.

    Interesting.

    I joined some time ago, but I only fully engaged earlier last year. I will have to do some research on myself to see what it was that kick started the reengagement with the twitter.

    One of the many things I like *a lot* about Twitter is that it really provides a fresh opportunity to be exposed to a range of views on a range of topics.

  • I signed up to twitter in May 2008. My first tweet was on the 31st of May, “sitting in front of a computer,” which is indicative of the toe in the water approach being taken. I tweeted sporadically until March 2009 when I started to pick up pace and by about May 2009 was well into the swing of it.

    I think that the turning point was when I finally found myself engaging with other twitterers. Waiting for people I knew to join and use the tool was a wrong headed approach.

    Now while I have a handful of pre-twitter friends on the twitter, they only post once in a blue moon. Though, I know that they and a number of my other friends and family who are not on the twitter do visit my stream (and others, presumably), reasonably regularly.

  • Liz, of course I will. I agree – you and I are the exceptions. 🙂

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