There is one central assumption that makes Twitter appealing and addictive, and keeps you posting – that someone is listening.
You are sharing your political rants because you are ‘an advocate.’ You are sharing your cat photos because you are ‘a content creator.’ You are sharing your movie review because you are ‘an opinion maker.’
Every time you tweet, you are telling ‘the world’ what you are thinking!
But, are you?
The hard truth is that if you look at the analytics part of your twitter account, you are given a jolt. There is so much noise and so many dead accounts on twitter, you are almost certainly talking to a much smaller part of ‘the world’ than you ever thought.
As an example, I run a twitter account, @comics4Free, which I use to share links to freely available (and legally so) digital comics and webcomics. I’ve had it for several years and there are some very loyal followers. All of which is why I still check every day to see if there are new free comics posted that I can quickly share.
I almost never use the account for anything else in order to keep the past tweets as a reachable backlist of what is often consistently free. On a good day, someone like Mark Millar retweets a link and a single tweet is seen by 11,000 people. But the average one is seen by about 200-300.
Comics4Free has over 4,000 followers. Which means that the base level is that only about 5% of the accounts that follow it actually see the material I post.
That assumption, that my words were reaching out into the world, kept me on twitter for a long time. Imagine a lifelong sufferer of middle child syndrome suddenly being heard!
But it is illusion. Social media is devolving the same as every other aspect of popular culture does, the world of ideas reduces to ‘thought leaders’ and celebrities. The truly thoughtful replaced by the shallowly popular.
The rest of us doomed to be social media’s middle children, desperate for attention and validation, but more often than not placed on mute.
There was a time in the early days when an average person would send a funny tweet and thousands would rush to hit follow. More and more over the years, though, I saw the follow button used with rigorous care. That same funny tweet would get retweeted thousands of times, but the tweeter wouldn’t pick up a soul.
In an radically-politicized social media landscape, a follow became an endorsement. A retweet is an endorsement. A like is an endorsement. Even Twitter’s validation system, always stated as a way to identify real accounts from fake, was suspended when the simple act of noting that a person was really them was an endorsement of that person’s views.
Along with the negatives of being a middle child is a really big positive – if no one cares what you think, no one cares what you think. There is a freedom in that.