Several of my friends and colleagues have been critical of their social media experience recently — Twitter in particular. One friend left Twitter altogether last week. I’m sympathetic. I’m a serial Facebook quitter, and in the fall, I wrote a few blog posts about my disillusionment with relying on Twitter for social and professional conversations. I even took some time off . . . and enjoyed it.
And then there were conferences. Twitter is such an assett at professional conferences, adding a layer of depth to the presentations and conversations. Then came #moocmooc. And so Twitter dragged me back in.
For all of its benefits, Twitter still has a signal-to-noise ratio problem. And a harassment problem. It facilitates the antisocial and the parasocial alongside the social. Creative, and promiscuous, blocking helps the anti-/parasocial problem. But it’s still noisy, and even the good is under the control of the Twitter company. However, I’ve started trying two things this past week that are helping with these issues.
First, I’m largely ignoring my Twitter timeline, and instead, I’m following a few lists I’ve created, each of which have, at most, a few dozen people. This targeted reading, loosely by topic, means that I read less tweets, and that I can choose a topic to focus on at a given moment. (My lists include topics like critical pedagogy, music scholarship, digital humanities, social justice, Christianity, etc. I also follow hashtags like #mtped and #moocmooc.) The topical division is messy, of course, as individuals tend to tweet about more than one topic. But there is more signal and less noise on these lists, and less topic-jumping while reading one of these lists, than while reading my timeline. Since I’m following less people this way, I might miss something. But most of the good stuff I really need to see will be retweeted by someone in a list eventually. (And people retweeted often get added to the list.) And at some point, I have to resign myself to the fact that there will always be more good stuff out there than I have time to engage . . . and that’s okay.
The other change I’ve made is installing Known on my server (sketches.shaffermusic.com). Known is a blog-like, social-media-like platform designed with POSSE in mind: Publish on your Own Site and Syndicate Elsewhere — a growing trend on the IndieWeb. Known double-publishes on Tiwtter (and other platforms) and uses webmentions to collect the ensuing conversations onto the original Known site. (Bridgy helps, too.) It also differentiates Tweet-like status updates from Facebook-like mini-blog entires without imposing character limits. It also integrates with social media conversations and @-replies pretty well. In short, it’s a pretty smooth way to own and control your content while connecting on proprietary social media networks.
I’ve found that more targeted reading makes me happier, and more targeted Twitter use means more time for longer-form reading and writing. Further, I really want to control my own content, and doing so makes me more excited about writing (as does having a new publishing toy . . . er . . . platform).
I’m liking this setup, at least for now. Targeted, meaningful engagement on Twitter, more time to read the longer-form pieces I find there, an easier and more “indie” way to engage, and more motivation to dig in and really write. Good stuff. And no need to leave Twitter just yet.
Kris Shaffer, Ph.D. (Yale University, 2011), is an Instructional Technology Specialist and adjunct instructor in Computer Science and Digital Studies at the University of Mary Washington and Contributing Editor for Hybrid Pedagogy. He is also the lead author of Open Music Theory.
Header image by Jared Tarbell.