Tao of Twitter Rough Draft

                As the technological boom continues to blow the minds of generation X, the development of various social networking sites has caused a stir of adaptation amongst online users.  From the masses of students on Facebook to the droves of corporate workers on LinkedIn, social networks have officially made communication quicker, amusing, and more efficient.  Nonetheless, even with millions of users, SNSs have created a phenomenon where public connections seem to be more of an art, instead of just a scientific advancement.  In only about 100 pages, Mark Schaefer successfully outlines the platform of Twitter in his short book The Tao of Twitter.   
                Schaefer primarily targets a broad audience of Twitter users, in spite of age, race or gender (which are the usual independent variables in recent social networking discourse and studies).  In this way, we automatically see that his intention is to educate both current and future users of the advantages of Twitter with basic daily usage.  In just the first 10 pages, the reader is able to understand the purpose of Twitter without a full-fledged glossary of “Twit-terms” and their definitions.   Schaefer also provides us with anecdotes of his past and current usage of the site, where he describes that Twitter actually isn’t for everyone.  He eventually narrows down to describe the advantages to businesses and small business owners.   Nevertheless, though the book initially seems geared toward an overarching audience of all users, we see here that Schaefer targets businesses and their respective professionals.  Looking at the book as an overall discourse of social media, we can see the recent spectrum of media scholarship regarding SNSs.  danah boyd and Nicole Ellison discuss this briefly in their elaborative definition of SNSs, “Scholars from disparate fields have examined SNSs in order to understand the practices, implications, culture, and meaning of the sites, as well as users’ engagement with them.  He breaks down the characteristics of an individual who would be an ideal user for business purposes.  In general, this person would be a small business-owner who is knowledgeable of the global market, and looking to sell differentiated services using a small marketing budget on a web-based communication tool.  This was the first thing that struck me as surprising.  Now, indeed Schaefer is
                There has often been negative discourse regarding Twitter and its purpose as an SNS, but I think it’s important to consider the difference between a social network and social networking.  Schaefer shows readers the personal and business benefits of Twitter by doing three simple things, or Tao’s as he calls them, to ensure that you’re developing a strong community.  Notice here that this community isn’t defined by users with whom you’ve already developed strong ties, although using Twitter can make them stronger.  Rather, Twitter allows you to interact with complete strangers and people who are already a part of your extended social network where latent ties were established in the past.  boyd and Ellison define an SNS as a web based service where individuals can create a profile in a bounded system, interact with other users with whom they share a connection, and view these connections within the system.  Even so, they specifically state, ‘‘Networking’’ emphasizes relationship initiation, often between strangers. While networking is possible on these sites, it is not the primary practice on many of them” (boyd 211).  Schaefer exploits this idea by highlighting the valuable connections that can be made from Twitter, which is indeed a networking site.   



Tao of Twitter Notes

The Tao of Twitter by Mark Schaefer

  • A book whose sole purpose is to smash the negative stereotypes that talk of Twitter as a ‘waste of time’, and show readers that the personal and business benefits you can achieve on Twitter are real and are far-reaching.
  • The reader is able to understand the whole point of Twitter in the first 10 pages, and see what it’s capable of, instead of getting immediately bogged down with dry definitions and acronyms.
  • Is Twitter for Everybody?
    • Twitter is not for everyone.
    • An ideal user of twitter would have the following characteristics:
      •     Small business-owner
      •     Enormous, global market potential (needs a lot of awareness)
      •     Small marketing budget
      •     Selling differentiated personal services
      •     No time to blog, develop extensive content, etc.
      •     Tech-savvy
      •    A charming, bright person with engaging personality.
    • Twitter Quitter
      • Someone who refuses to use twitter
        • Refusal reasons include:
          • Lack of understanding
          • 140 characters isn’t sufficient enough to express ideas
          • Seems like idle chatter
      • Some say it favors out-going people, yet introverts are quick to say that they love the platform as way to connect on their own terms and build quality relationships slowly. Maybe it has something to do with patience.  Perhaps it is being creeped out by the crowds or by having strangers “follow you.”
      • Honestly, I haven’t figured it out, but I do acknowledge the fact that some very intelligent and wonderful people just don’t like Twitter even when they can see the benefits.
    • What about organizations?
      • When it comes to business communications strategy, it really gets down to this: What are your business objectives?  What do you need to say?  Where do your customers get their information?
      • People are piling on to the social web in record numbers and are also spending an enormous amount of time there. In an always-connected world, the role of social media in the business and personal world is blurring.
      • Become a valued subject matter expert.
      • Create new business opportunities for your company.
      • However, there are MANY other business benefits to Twitter beyond simply getting sales leads.  Even if your customers aren’t there in force, it is still an incredibly powerful way to learn, connect with thought leaders, and identify new business opportunities.
  • 3 Tao’s to ensure that you are developing are strong community:
    • Attracting targeted followers: How to surround yourself with people who might be interested in you and what you have to say.
    • Provide meaningful content: This goes from some interesting news information you heard to your opinion on something to tweet about what interests you. 
    • Offering authentic helpfulness: Do you have the mindset to help others? Friendships on the social web are built on trust and that must be earned.
  • Using these you will be able to understand the full benefits of twitter.
  • Twitter can give businesses good competitive advantage.
  • Needs to be used actively, but not in a way that it begins to consumer you’re entire day.
  • Outlines the problems businesses face when first adopting to Social Media
  • Twitter is as much as an art as it is a science.
  • You should put your own account in you lists because as people subscribe to your list they’ll be able to see your tweets as well.

Don’t Talk to Strangers…Talk to Your Children!

As far as I can recall, my first interaction with a computer was in the summer of my fourth grade year in elementary school.  I remember it like it was yesterday actually.  Both my parents were in IT, my dad being a computer engineer, and my mom a computer programmer; but I never took the time to actually use a machine.  My elementary school had just opened a “highly gifted” program for students that excelled among their gifted peers.  One of the requirements of the program was that each student must be experts in Microsoft office, so that summer my parents showed me the ropes.  Looking back now, I realize this is when the technological boom really began, only a year prior to Google’s existence.

Let’s just think of the technological transition of this generation.  Before using the computer that day, my time was either occupied by social interactions with family members, or watching television.  Now, at age 10, my brother spends more time on Facebook than he does on video games or playing outside with his friends.  So, does this mean that his increased usage of Facebook as an SNS makes him more susceptible to sexual exposure and/or abuse than other extra-curricular activities? Honestly, I think I disagree for reasons that are further explained by Tracy Mitrano in “A Wider World: Youth, Privacy, and Social Networking Technologies.” I think Mitrano’s article was articulated extremely well by including anecdotes, facts, and statistical analysis to prove her point.   Mitrano explains the flaws of passed laws that aimed to protect the privacy of people using SNSs.  Many of these past laws, including the Communications Decency Act (1990) and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA, 1998), contained vague language that didn’t quite prevent children from being sexually abused, but instead may restrict “creativity, technological advancements, and free speech” (Mitrano).  She goes on to emphasize that the academic goal of teachers should be to teach their students how to effectively and appropriately use SNSs and protect themselves thereof.  I agree with this idea completely.  If we examine each social network that has prevailed on the Internet, we can see that privacy will always be an issue, but incidents of sexual abuse can only be controlled/monitored to a certain extent by the site themselves.  For instance, although Facebook has several privacy options, whether you can block certain photos or report an incidence of sexual harassment, people will still find ways to get around this because of the purpose of the site in itself.  Social networking sites are created with the primary purpose of interaction, regardless if you know or don’t know the people who you may be interacting with.  Now of course this excludes sites that require a job/school specific domain to join.  Nonetheless, government intervention can only prevent so much since there are several things to consider, such as the difference between nonconsensual interaction and consensual interaction.  For instance, COPPA controls the acquisition of personally identifiable information from persons thirteen and under on the Internet by requiring adult permission (http://www.ftc.gov/ogc/coppa1.htm).  The ease of lying about your age or posting pictures of someone who you aren’t allows users to create identities that are seemingly authentic.

In regards to the extreme increase of sexting in the past few years we can explore this idea.  As discussed by Amy Hasinoff in “Sexting as media production: Re-thinking dominant ideas about teen girls and sexuality online,” most interpretations of mobile media don’t take into account that users make their information accessible, so they inherently create their own privacy issues.  Although people may enjoy sharing private images or ideas with each other, a majority feel uncomfortable sharing this with others.  So, shouldn’t they just keep it to themselves? This is something government intervention cannot enforce.  There is no way to tell people what is appropriate from what isn’t because that is dependent on their personal preference of appropriateness, which includes both age and sexual concerns.  Don’t get me wrong here.  Indeed, the law can determine what is allowed to be shown, but it cannot prevent people from consensual decisions of exposing inappropriate behavior, though consequences may follow.  I think the most important thing in regards to youth and the use of social media technologies is to consider all factors of technological development and how they can be controlled to create a safer online environment.  As stated clearly by Mitrano, “In a networked world, the previous generation’s advice to children—”Don’t talk to strangers”—no longer makes any sense. Talking to strangers is part of the magic of the Internet. However, parents do need to talk to their children.”

Let’s Get Personal

Before jumping into my thoughts about interpersonal relationships and social media I’d like to share an interesting experience when searching for recent articles discussing the matter.  When researching a starting point for my post, I went to Google (does anyone notice how we go to Google for literally everything) and searched ‘interpersonal relationships and social networking.’  Yes, I know, could I have been any more creative in finding a starting point for blog 2?  I couldn’t think of any recent experiences or articles I’ve read so I just had to find one.

I found various results, but I noticed most of them had the words “Facebook,” “Privacy,” or “Influence” either in the headline or search result.  This in itself said enough.  Most interpersonal relationships on the web begin on social networking sites like Facebook, because we are influenced by other users, which eventually cause us to question our privacy.  Thus, we alter our online identity to show what we feel is acceptable for others to see; keeping in mind that our potential love interests (if they exist) could be “lurking” on our pages.  After I realized this I was determined to find an article that discussed the effects on identity from interpersonal relationships and social networking.  I actually found two that were quite difficult to choose between.  One discussed Nancy Baym’s perspective, which of course I found useful since we are reading the book.  The other article gave me an interesting take on the idea of being “sexy” on social networking sites.  Although useful, the prior wasn’t as interesting as the latter, but I do feel that it can supplement our readings, so it can be found here.

The article, “Are you too sexy for Facebook? Social media and relationships” provides statistics of online interactions that are starting to “spill-over” into reality.  These statistics are broken down into categories that I find quite interesting, including the socio-political divide.  According to the article, “34 percent of respondents living in Blue States (Democrats) describe themselves as “sexually adventurous,” compared with only around a quarter (26 percent) of Red State-ers (Republicans).”  What I find extremely interesting about these statistics is that, the division of people responding to these surveys, whether Democrats vs. Republicans or Facebook-ers vs. Tweeters, are a part of a specific community.  Various communities have been created on social networking sites, but what makes some users closer than others?

I think it’s safe to say their likes, dislikes, and affiliations group them into particular categories.  Donath and boyd discuss this further by explaining, “seeing someone within the context of their connections provides the viewer with information about them. Social status, political beliefs, musical taste, etc, may be inferred from the company one keeps” (72) Donath and boyd.  From personal experience I can agree with this completely.  Whenever I get a friend request from a stranger on Facebook, I instantly create this “stranger checklist” that could either categorize a user as a potential friend or a lurker.  The funny thing about it is 9 out of 10 times I have no intention of ever speaking to this person, but 5 out of ten times they intend to speak to me.  Yet, I go down my list (which suddenly appears out of thin air by the way) and see how many mutual friends we have, what their pictures look like, their education and work experience if provided.  Donath and boyd’s article has so much detail regarding interpersonal relationships so the story I chose seems to be just a quick display of statistics.  However, I do feel that it is presented effectively because the statistics give us another perspective on interpersonal relationships.  Although it may not be a lengthy discourse of social networking platforms, I think the information provided is sufficient for our class and the ideas discussed.

In regards to the presentation of stories in Life 2.0, I don’t think that the article I chose can really compare because it isn’t really a story or collection of past experiences.   Perhaps it would have been more interesting if specific feedback from Facebook or Twitter users was provided, but I think that would have also defeated the purpose of random sampling a thousand people.  I was surprised by many of the statistics, and maybe you guys will be too.  I’m interested in what you guys think, and if any of you fall into the statistics.

Social Network-ING?

Being at the center of our ongoing “social networking system,” a barrage of opinions make their way into the lives, or shall I say “profiles,” of my fellow networkers and I on a day to day basis.  What was once a critique of a quickly emerging new form of technology has now become a spectrum of what seems to be an everlasting phenomenon for our generation and several following.  Knowing this, I must admit that boyd and Ellison made several interesting points; however, David Beer provides us with a different perspective of social networking that I seem to agree with more.  Nonetheless, I’ll examine boyd and Ellison’s article first since Beer’s is a response after all.

Although I expected more than just the ‘cut and dry’ timeline of social networking sites, I was able to follow the emergence of social media from its initiation to present day existence.  When SixDegrees.com was created in 1997, a new wave of communication opened the door for online interaction.  This was far before the wave of Google struck curious users as amazing, even though Google actually began in 1996.  As a matter of fact, prior to reading this article I had no idea SixDegrees.com even existed.  I know I was only five at the time, but I feel like I would have at least heard about it years after.  This is what led me to question boyd and Ellison’s definition of social network sites.  At what extent is a social network site actually considered one?  While SixDegrees.com didn’t expand to as many people as Friendster, it gave people the ability to keep in touch with each other.  Thus, creating a network, which alters social interaction right? Not completely.  This is where Beer’s interesting perspective expands on my ideas.

If we were to use the definition provided by boyd and Ellison, then every single site where people could interact using those three criteria would be considered a social network site.  The definition is too broad because that would include both network and networking sites which are actually different as explained by Beer, “Social networking sites, in the narrower sense, can then be differentiated from other related but different web applications like Youtube, where, picking up on boyd and Ellison’s own argument, making and accumulating friendship connections is not the sole focus of activity” (518).  Using this example for instance, YouTube is considered a social network because users can make accounts, share a connection with other users through comments or videos, and view these connections .  However, we find that YouTube users aren’t logging on with the same intentions as Facebook users.  YouTube pages aren’t created for the purpose of peer connection, but rather streaming video about a range of possible topics.  Indeed peer connection is used as a marketing strategy on most sites, but when information begins to reach strangers, it becomes a social networking site.  I think the trouble here is that the line between social network and social networking is continuously crossed depending on user interaction and site organization.  The complexity of analyzing each site based on its characteristics indeed causes a big problem.  I also agree with Beer in regards to this as he quotes, “I agree that a number of these sites aren’t about networking but are networks, but this should be grounds for distinction not for opening up a relatively stable term to include these differences” (519).  Perhaps, a different approach to studying social media could contribute to the classification of these sites.

One way we can approach the study of social media is by distinguishing the “causes” of each website instead of just classifying them as social network sites.  Geert Lovink discusses this concept in his video about his book Networks Without a Cause on http://networkcultures.org/wpmu/weblog/2011/06/27/networks-without-a-cause/.  I think it’s an interesting take on the definition of social networks, even in his reference to participatory platforms.  These platforms encourage the interaction of people with strangers in a more comfortable way that may not have existed in face-to-face interaction.  Sites such as Facebook or hi5 are created with the direct cause of gaining users to participate in an online, synchronous communication system.  Networks without a specific cause are known as organized networks because of their tight knit community where bonds are strengthened among existing social ties.  Hence, there is a distinction among these hundreds of sites that have been classified as SNSs.  I think scholars can get a better understanding of the impact of social media by examining the expansion of sites with specific causes, rather than making generalizations about SNSs which have been defined under an over-extensive umbrella definition.