Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Twitter - The online flea market

At Christmas time I bought an iPhone, time for me to become a tech geek. In February I attended a workshop that was about using Twitter for professional development. The presenter assured me that it would be a good thing. I signed up for an account and started following a couple of people. Then nothing. It was just another thing and I didn’t have time.

Emails from people telling me how great Chris Hatfield’s pictures from space appeared in my inbox. After seeing some of these pictures and watching some videos of life in the ISS I was energized. I thought Twitter could be an excellent educational tool. If it allowed Chris Hatfield to meet the public where they lived and educate people about science and life in space, it could do the same for me. I went to check my account. (Note: I did not follow Chris Hatfield, instead I accessed the videos from YouTube and the Canadian Space Agency website, I found it easier).

What did I find?

Soooooo many links, sooooo much stuff, but not a lot of substance. Everyone is sharing everything, which is great, but no one seems to be thinking deeply about it. In The Flight from Conversation Turkle talks about the disconnectedness of ‘being connected’ I think this extends to the use of Twitter for professional development as well. There is information being shared but it is disconnected, there is no dialogue. “Check this out” is not the same as expressing thoughtful consideration on a topic.

There are good finds in this mix of stuff but finding the genuine antiques from the bulk barn junk takes time. Time I don’t have, the volume of posts is too overwhelming. Now I skim and only when I feel I have some time. More and more I am becoming convinced that no one is really reading anything anymore.

My questions for the world are (and I challenge you to convince me of in 140 characters or less):
Is being able to tweet/connected in this way an important part of literacy? If this information can be accessed through other means why is tweeting so important?
Twitter discourages real thought and connection. It is too difficult to express thoughts on an article in 140 characters. Not deep thought. Not analysis. Not the kind of thought that builds a conversation. Would it be better to go back to the ‘old’ way of writing your thoughts with a link on a blog post?


Turkle, S. (2012). The Flight From Conversation. Retrieved from

1 comment:

  1. Eric,
    II hear what you are saying about Twitter, but I think we need to keep in mind that as a literacy, we are still learning to become proficient at it. As David Carr says, it “gets better as more people use it.” As well, he states, “The best people on Twitter communicate with economy and precision, with each element — links, hash tags and comments — freighted with meaning.”

    As with any form of communication, there are people who are very good at it. Think for example of Japanese Haiku poets – who have 17 syllables to make their point - would you say that their form of communication “discourages real thought and connection?”

    For me the biggest issue with Twitter is the amount of information that continuously comes down the pike. Again, Carr suggests, “At first, Twitter can be overwhelming, but think of it as a river of data rushing past that I dip a cup into every once in a while.” And this is true for digital information today. We are all learning to deal with the deluge that bombards us in all forms.

    Here’s an example: I was recently chatting with a colleague about Maria Popova, whom I follow on Twitter. This friend does not choose to follow her, but receives her “weekly interestingness digest.” Every Sunday morning, she makes a pot of coffee, opens her laptop, and proceeds to spend a couple of hours perusing Maria’s newsletter. She calls it her treat to herself. This colleague is thoughtful about how she chooses to receive information and who she chooses to hear from. She is on Twitter, but that is not the only way she follows people.

    In your post you mention that, “Everyone is sharing everything, which is great, but no one seems to be thinking deeply about it.” To a certain extent, I agree – there are a lot of people just retweeting. But I think that is part of learning how to do Twitter. I don’t tweet much. I am also learning which people to follow and which people to ditch. It’s a new literacy and one that I’m still learning about.

    So, I guess I’m saying, before you write Twitter off completely, give it a bit more time. Who knows? One day, just like email, you might find you can’t live without it.

    Carr, D. (January 1, 2010). Why Twitter will endure. (Web log). Retrieved from