When people ask about Twitter, I always say that it’s like the comments section of an open thread in a blog, just without the blog.
But today, I realized that, in some ways, it’s actually better than that. Because with Twitter, to borrow a phrase from Howard Rheingold, you can “tune your followers.” Which means, unlike a comments thread on a blog, where anyone and everyone — including trolls — can post, on Twitter *you* chose who you want to listen to, and everyone else, you can ignore. And while this might set off some concerns about Twitter encouraging an “echo chamber,” I suspect many people actually follow people with contrary opinions (a point noted in this post from Dave Parry…). I certainly do.
Anyway, today was the RNC’s chairperson race, and all afternoon, enthusiastic Republicans tweeted away, following the vote-by-vote action. Posts were marked with a hash tag (#rncchair), and, using Twitter’s search site, you could follow along in real time.
Or, you know, not.
One of Twitter’s strengths is you can choose whether or not to dip in to this, or any other, data stream. Twitter is broad enough to enable Republicans to carve out their own space, without bothering me. Unless I wanted to take a look, which, of course, I did.
It’s a kind of visibility and connectedness that’s very hard to achieve within a blog community, as so much time there is spent dealing with trolls, and meta-discussions around what is and is not acceptable behavior. On Twitter, it’s much easier to tune into whomever you think is interesting, and ignore (or just listen to once in a while) everyone else.
I’m not suggesting, of course, this is “better” than what happens on a blog; just different. Both forms of media have strengths and weaknesses, and appeal to different sorts of people. But this is one thing I do like about Twitter.