The Tao of Twitter: Changing your life and business 140 characters at a time

A Very Rough Draft

Summary: The Tao of Twitter is essentially a “how-to” manual on the social media site popularly known as Twitter. Throughout the book, Mark Schaefer explains the uses of Twitter, defines Twitter-lingo and teaches readers how to tweet.

Social Discourse:

  • Takes a technological deterministic approach
    • Technological determinism: the idea that technology is a external agent. The assumption that we will see effects and we won’t see them if we don’t use them
    • Through his personal experiences, Schaefer talks about how Twitter is what you make of it
      • He talks about how Twitter provides a plethora of networking opportunities, however in other to reap the benefits of twitter one must find the “Tao of Twitter”
      • How he made beneficial connections, which started because of a simple “Go Steelers” tweet and how he wouldn’t have made those connections without Twitter

Course concepts the book addresses:

  • Forming relationships and community through social media
    • Explains how to make a latent tie into a weak/strong tie
      • How to break the ice with a follower or a person you are following
  • How to target connections
  • Forming identity through social media
    • Incorporates taste preferences
      • He advises people to follow those who are similar to them instead of people who are different (which is something we discussed in class)
      • Echo tunnel
  • Advises people to be authentic
    • Having meaningful content
    • Learning about and reaching consumers
      • Ways to leverage platform for new business benefits


  • People who have never used twitter before
    • Provides general guidelines
    • Essentially a “Twitter for Dummies” book
  • People who want to network using twitter
    • How to even the most mundane tweets can result in a beneficial connection
      • How it can make a latent tie into a strong or weak tie

Ethical implications of social media and marketing

  • While Schaefer constantly emphasizes the importance of being authentic on twitter, he doesn’t really critique twitter and it’s ethical implications in terms of the power relationship between the people who use social media and the people who own it

Personal Critiques

  • Focuses only on the advantages that Twitter can give you
    • Briefly talks about spamming
    • Doesn’t mention the fact that while people have control over their tweets, there is no control over how people interpret tweets
      • Context collapse
      • Reputability
      • Nightmare audience
    • Puts all the responsibilities on the user
      • Doesn’t blame the platform
        • Doesn’t take into account that while a user may tweet something, the audience interprets it in their own way
        • Doesn’t take into account the nightmare audience
        • Talks about the benefits of increased publicity, but doesn’t mention the possibility of bad publicity
  • Assumes that if the user does get bad publicity, it’s because the user is using the social media wrong
  • Twitter is not for everyone
    • While he acknowledges that some people don’t use twitter, he doesn’t discourage it
    • Really pushes the advantages and the benefits of twitter
    • Seemingly biased

A minor over-reaction?

In her article, “Few Teens Sexting Racy Photos,” Lindsay Tanner discusses why sexting shouldn’t be viewed as a negative form of communication and how youth should not be prosecuted or vilified for sexting. Through research Tanner discovers that teen sexting is far less common than people think, which brings up the issue that perhaps adults (parents, faculty, dominant media) are over-reacting to the issue of sexting. Interestingly, Tanner also finds that different age groups use sexting differently. For example, there was a case in which a 10-year old boy had sent an 11-year old girl a photo of his genitals to “gross her out.” Another case involved a 16-year old girl accidentally posted a nude photo of herself on a social network and a 16-year old boy found the photo and redistributed it when the girl refused to send him more nude photos. Tanner also claims that exploring sexuality is normal teens and that sexting is, in a sense, over analyzed because it takes place in an environment that adults are not familiar with. Tanner concludes her article with Dr. Victor Strasburger, who claims that the brains of teenagers are not “mature enough to fully realize the consequences of their actions” and thus should not be prosecuted for they mistakes (Tanner).

I thought that Tanner really brought up some interesting issues with sexting that we discussed in class. I thought Tanner’s use of the two different case studies correlated with Hasinoff’s article, “Sexting as media production: Re-thinking dominant ideas about teen girls and sexuality online” which brings up the issue of age and how it determines whether sexting is good or bad. Hasinoff argues that while sexting underage is considered dangerous, wrong, and bad, sexting of age becomes a form of self-expression. In the case of the 10-year olds, the boy wasn’t prosecuted because he wasn’t old enough to “understand the magnitude of his actions” whereas in the case of the 16 year olds the boy was clearly exploiting the girl and thus sexting between youth is portrayed in a negative light.

By reassuring that exploring sexuality is normal, Tanner reverts the blame to technology and not on the teenagers who take racy photos. This brings up the issue of privacy and how social media may be causing adults to over-react to youth sexting. Mitchell’s article, “Prevalence and Characteristics of Youth sexting: A National Study,” claims that as a rapidly evolving society we have the tendency to be “easily alarmed about changing youth mores” (Mitchell). Perhaps sexting is greeted as a “sign of hypersexualization and extreme risk-taking” (Mitchell) because it’s different and it takes place in a technological environment, which makes compromising photos easier to replicate and distribute. I feel like Tanner victimizes sexters by displacing the blame on technology itself, which I believe is not the case because the technology does not replicate and redistribute sexts by itself. In their article, “Social Steganography: Privacy in Netowrked Publics” boyd and Marwick discuss the different definitions of privacy and how social norms play into this issue of privacy. Perhaps underage sexting is blown out of porportion because youth have not quite grasped the notion that there are varying degrees of privacy.

I also feel that Tanner takes a very casual approach to sexting. She claims that sexters should not be prosecuted because they don’t quite understand the consequences of their actions and that they should simply be taught that anything posted on the internet is “potentially there forever” (Tanner). She also believes that sexting has been “blown out of proportion” and how “our society has gotten hysterical” (Tanner) over under age sexting, which reminded me of our discussion of moral panic. Unlike the dominant narratives that portray sexting as dangerous behavior, Tanner portrays sexting as something teenagers are curious to experiment with.

Some questions to consider:

-If sexting is so disturbing, then why aren’t people reacting the same way to porn? I feel like there really isn’t a difference to sexting and porn. It’s basically an issue of whether you know the person in the racy photo or not. And that people in porn are paid.

-If a sext is redistributed, does it become a form of cyber-bullying? Especially if one is “forced” to take racy photos?

-Dr. Strasburger claims that “teenagers are neurologically programmed to do dumb things” (Tanner). Does this quote and the idea that exploring sexuality mean that sexting is okay for teens or is it just displacing the issue somewhere else?

-How privacy is defined through sexting: at what point does sexting cross the line of privacy? Is redistributing compromising photos without consent invasion of privacy?


Personally, I believe that reactions to sexting are overrated. In my high school, there were two sexting scandals and I thought that it was pointless for other people to be involved. I feel that getting more people involved in a sexting scandal just expands the scandal into a crisis and blows it out of proportion. It just becomes another issue of privacy and how people respect that privacy.

The Complexities of Facebook

In her book, “Personal Connections in the Digital Age,” Baym discusses the idea of community and how there are five specific characteristics or qualities that a community must have to be considered as such. These five characteristics are: sense of space, shared practice, shared resources and support, shared identities, and interpersonal relationships. As long as communities have these characteristics, it doesn’t matter if they are physical communities or viral communities (found on the internet).

Claire Suddath’s article, “How Not to Be Hated on Facebook: Ten More Rules” reminded me of the quality, shared practice. This article lists a few “electronic friendship guidelines” or “etiquette rules” for Facebook users in a comedic yet semi-serious way. Personally I enjoyed the ones connected to friend request etiquette (3,4, and 5).   In class, we discussed how shared practices referred to the linguistics of a certain SNS and how they unconsciously form a set of rules or norms as a way of keeping users in line. Suddath’s “list” seemed to emphasize how important it was to follow the norms or rules on SNSs and how users should be “prepared for people to de-friend you” if they don’t follow them. While Suddath’s article was entertaining, I thought that is was biased in that it portrayed how users can easily be ostracized from the Facebook community through their lack of knowledge when in my experience I realized that people are very unlikely to de-friend another user unless there is a legitimate reason. I guess you could say that Suddath’s etiquette rules or guidelines seem trivial and random in my opinion. In other words, I think that Suddath failed to acknowledge the diverse network of users and how individual users friend other users based on different contexts, which goes back to my previous comment  about how people have their own understandings of various terms. For example, while some of my friends “de-friend” people they have rarely see in the physical world, they don’t “de-friend” users because the user kept taking quizzes or had mundane status updates. They “de-friended” because they no longer felt that they had a connection with that user. Suddath also seems to have created this set of guidelines based more on her beliefs of Facebook etiquette and not on a vast survey. Like the film, Life 2.0, seemed focused only on the extreme users of Second Life,  I felt that Suddath focused only on a certain extreme and not on the vast array of users. Perhaps if she had interviewed or surveyed a variety of Facebook users to find out what made them “de-friend” other users, she could have compiled a better set of guidelines.

In another article, “Your Facebook Relationship Status: It’s Complicated,” Suddath explores how the SNS Facebook has influenced the interpersonal relationships between different people. While Suddath brings up how facebok has come to reflect how we view our lives through “photos [that] broadcast the fun they’re having, status updates [that] say what’s on their mind,” she focuses on how the relationship status is the only thing that involves other people. In other words, this mini-declaration is one of the few bi-directional connections within Facebook. Suddath then continues to explore how this “relationship-status” affects the interelationships in the physical world.

Suddath focuses on both the shared practices of Facebook (relationship etiquette), interpersonal relationships and the sense of space. Facebook has six different relationship categories: single, in a relationship, engaged, married, it’s complicated and in an open relationship. Throughout her article, Suddath explores how this seemingly uncomplicated factor of Facebook has become a complicated issue and I admit, the facebook relationship status can either be your best friend or your worst enemy. While some people don’t like listing their relationship status on facebook and others don’t acknowledge your relationship because it isn’t “facebook official,” news of relationship changes can cause a lot of chaos. In this article, Suddath takes into account a variety of users who use the relationship status. For example, while there are some people who don’t use the relationship status, there are others who consider the relationship status as a “deal-breaker.”  This idea that some people want relationships to be “facebook official” reminded me of Boyd’s article “Friends, Frienders, and Myspace Top 8” because suddenly it brings up more conflicts within relationships. Take for example the woman who updated her status to “engaged” before even telling her family that she was “engaged.” Unlike her other article, which in my opinion was a bit biased and comedic, this article looked at how this feature affected the Facebook users and how Facebook seems to have redefined the term “relationship” for some users. The article also seems to show that while the relationship status can be informative, it also can lead to conflict if you aren’t careful. However, I felt that Suddath’s article implied that the relationship status is a very huge part of Facebook when personally I believe that it isn’t that big of a deal. I also wished that she had explored the idea that some people change their relationship status “just for kicks.” For example, I was “married” to my room mate for a semester and all of my friends knew that it didn’t necessarily mean that I was actually married to her.

I feel like Suddath’s articles are lacking in research because it seems like she only looks at a certain aspects  and categories of Facebook. Like the film Life 2.0, I think that her articles give a distorted or partially untrue presentation of Facebook and how the relationship status feature is used.


SNS: Marketing on a Personal level?

In his article, “Social network(ing) sites…revisiting the story so far,” Dr. David Beer claims that while boyd and Ellison’s article brings up the issue of social media and attempts to clarify the difference between “social network sites” and “social networking sites” (or SNSs), they fail to ask the right questions concerning social media. Beer believes that due to the ever-shifting online culture, social media is becoming too broad, making a “differentiated typology of [these] various user-generated web applications more problematic” (Beer 519). His second issue with the boyd and Ellison article is the distinction between online friends and offline friends. Beer argues that friendships online are no different from our offline friends and that we shouldn’t think of the two as “disconnected” (Beer 520). Beer also disagrees with the issue of unmediated and mediated communication. He believes that all communication is mediated in some way. Finally Beer feels that instead of focusing on individual users should focus on the economic structure of these SNSs. By failing to critique these sites, Beer fears that our society will become unwittingly domesticated with the various types of social media.

Although both articles bring up very important points about social media, I agreed with a lot of Beer’s responses. While the broad distinction between social network sites and social networking sites was helpful, I believe that it is almost impossible to categorize one site as a social network site and not a social networking site. Take for example Facebook, while it can be labeled as a social network site due to the privacy settings, the bidirectional ties and the ability to control visibility and access to your profile, it can also be considered a social networking site. Take this photo:

This is the Gramercy Green Residence Hall group. Although I’m not “Friends” with a majority of this facebook group, I can still contact them because we have a common network. Through this page, the Gramercy residents can ask to borrow certain objects (such as a printer, a textbook, and cooking utensils), sell their old textbooks, search for lost items or simply find someone to talk to. In this way, users can still meet new people online and expand their own networks.

I also agreed with his argument about the distinctions between “friends” and “Friends”. Most of my “Friends” are friends that I have made in the physical world and I only accept friend requests or request to be friends with people whom I’ve met in the physical world. While it’s true that some of my “Friends” are people I’ve met only once, I can say that I would probably recognize a majority of them.

Finally, Beer brings up the economic structure of the SNSs and how they use the information they obtain from users to provide personalized ads.

I admit, I’m a huge fan of games whether they’re on my iPhone or my facebook and because I play a lot of different games, Facebook will then suggest possible games that I might be interested in. Usually Facebook suggests these games because they are either similar to the games that I’m playing now or because my friends are playing the same game. For example, when I was playing Restaurant City, I kept getting suggestions and ads to start playing Café city and other restaurant related games. It’s the same with Youtube, but with videos. SNS keeps track of your recent activity then caters to your “likes” or “dislikes” and through your preferences, they find ads that they think you’ll click.

I feel like SNSs are becoming, in a sense, a marketing scheme. It seems perfect. You create a profile so the site already knows what you like and what you dislike. As you continue to use the site, the site gets more information about you. Through the SNS, different companies and advertisers can target what you like and provide ads that you will be interested in. For example, while watching TV shows online during the commercial breaks they ask you (in the upper right hand corner) if the ad is relevant to you in any way. If the ad isn’t then they replace it with something else.


After I clicked no:

While social media does provide us with excellent ways to stay connected, I feel like they are also another platform for media to bombard us with ads, which raises the question: Are the SNS made to help us maintain connections and create networks or are they made to provide to expand the reach of the consumeristic culture and cater marketing to our personal tastes?