Why Twitter is importantPosted: February 11, 2010
I’ve been reading a lot of things lately about the difficulties of monetizing skills and talents, both on the internet and elsewhere.
Unbelievably incredible creative people are finding the rug tugged out from under them in this digital age of mp3s and JPGs.
Over time the internet has become just one huge trolley dash to grab at everything unthinkingly, with no sense of the damage to those people who put their talents out on show for us to enjoy. We’ve all downloaded copyright content I’m sure, without the slightest sense of guilt or shame. Are we missing the bigger picture?
Human beings (such as myself) are selfish creatures on the whole, and are motivated almost entirely by self-interest. I want to do what I want; when I want; and at minimal cost to myself in almost every situation, but one. That exception is social.
There is an impulse to act unselfishly in support of family, and of friends. We do not offer an aesthetic critique of the paintings our children bring home from school; we smile and thank them, because we love them. In doing so, some may argue, we may have compromised one part of our integrity, but that is more than compensated by the deeper significance of supporting and loving another human being. In this way we endow our friends and our families with the confidence and the potential to move on, improve and facilitate their continued progress and success.
We may claim to love our favourite TV stars, singers, writers and artists too, but until now, we did not have the opportunity to know them personally in most cases, but things have changed. The difference is that now we have Twitter
Last night I read an incredibly moving blog post by Wil Wheaton You can read it here
From @WilW 10th Feb 2010
“In which the impact of Twitter on my life is examined, and thanks is given to @ev and @biz http://wilwheaton.typepad.com/wwdnbackup/2010/02/in-which-the-impact-of-twitter-on-my-life-is-examined.html%20“
Now to me, eighteen months ago, Wil Wheaton was just some young American actor I had seen on TV a few years ago. He doesn’t know me, we’ve never personally interacted, he has no idea who I am; yet in those words he has expressed a large part of what I too would like to say on this subject. Twitter changes lives, and it deserves to be taken seriously.
Most of the print media, certainly here in Britain, are fond of running disparaging pieces about Twitter and how they see it as a pointlessly ephemeral waste of time designed for geeks, nerds and losers who have nothing better to do than be on the Internet twenty four hours a day. Now, why would they do that? Call me a cynic but to me it is glaringly obvious that they realise that they are in a dying industry and cannot compete. They, and other leviathan old media institutions, like record companies and broadcasters creak and groan as the age of information overtakes them like a swarm of migrating army-ants, leaving them gasping and struggling in a snare of millions of copyright infringements. (As an illustration of that let me direct you to Al Yankovic’s tweet
From @AlYankovic 8th Feb 2010
“In case you were wondering… ditto for me. http://okgo.forumsunlimited.com/index.php?showtopic=4169 #okgo”
An eloquent and impassioned explanation, brilliantly expressed there by Damian Kulash of @OKGO)
In this free for all, where are these creatives to find new markets?
It seems obvious to me that we are downsizing and, with tools like Twitter we are getting up close and personal with people whom we would normally never have come into contact with. There are so many examples of this.
Musicians, such as the extraordinarily lovely and talented Terra Naomi (@terranaomi – another of whom I knew nothing before Twitter) streaming live from their own living rooms to their Twitter followers and creating not just fans, but making new friendships; new allies in strangers from all parts of the world, who, in their turn will be very likely to buy the music, or the tickets to live shows when they are offered, because they now “know” that artist and can relate to them, not as a remote figure, but as a sort of a friend to whom loyalty is gladly given.
Other artists use Twitter and other social media to organize national tours of ordinary people’s living rooms, like wandering medieval minstrels. These people have an urge to create, and to share their art with other real people.
A great example of using Twitter comes from the extraordinary Peter Serafinowicz (@serafinowicz) His amazing story of how he used Twitter to get his DVD publicly released can be found here in this Boing Boing interview
It’s our attitudes that need adjustment as we enter this new era.
Already, the once World Wide Web is being carved up by big business to fit a tired old world business model. If we decide that we want to retain the freedoms that are here in cyberspace, we need to address the issues entailed and devise radical global solutions to copyright law issues if we are to achieve justice for the brilliant people who entertain us
So many unexpected and serendipitous collaborations have arisen on account of this supposedly trivial and pointless website, that I think it really is time to stand up and say NO. Twitter should not be viewed as a passing fad. There is an ease and openness of communication available here as in no other place.
On Facebook, if you don’t know me, you aren’t going to add me are you? You’re in your ivory tower with your chosen few and I’m just a peasant at the gate. That’s why Facebook sucks.
MySpace was actually a whole lot better when people still used it, and additionally it was a great market place for creative people to showcase what they do. It’s so sad that it became deserted as the sheep all flocked to Facebook instead. I still really don’t understand the appeal of that site, but I digress…
Due to its format, Twitter is not cliquey. I can follow anyone, (except those who have protected their tweets.) I can, after a fashion, “talk” to anyone out there. Whether they respond or not is neither here nor there. Some people I talk to all the time, but although they may never respond (you know who you are!) I can be reasonably confident that I got my point across anyway J
Twitter. It is important. It is democratic. It is frightening those who would control us and separate us. We, the people have the news before the old-school news media, governments or authorities can sanitize or censor it. We need to recognize the importance of unrestricted wide scale, real time communication and the part it can and will play, not only in the recreation of business and economic institutions and society, but also in the defence of human life and rights as we have seen in Iran and Haiti for example.
On a more human scale, and as Wil Wheaton pointed out, Twitter is a place to meet people and make friends. On the strength of some encouragement given to me by someone I much admire (@TheGreatBermuda) I have put a lot more thought in the last year or so into what I actually enjoy and what I am good at.
To me Twitter has become an important way for me to get to know and learn from incredibly talented writers. The warmth of the welcome I have had from many professional writers has been so nurturing to me, that I really am starting to think that perhaps I too have a valid creative urge irrespective of whether that will ever put food on the table. That encouragement and friendship has actually changed the way I view myself from a negative to a positive light. That has to be a good thing.
Thank you for reading.