If you’ve been paying any attention, you notice patterns of stages that we all go through when it comes to Twitter. At first we don’t get it. We don’t understand the concept. It’s the ‘who cares what someone had for breakfast?’ stage. But then we reluctantly try it out. And we have an epiphany. I call this the ‘this is the most amazing thing ever invented’ stage.
Once we grasp Twitter’s core concept of connectivity, we enter something called the ‘euphoria’ stage of hyper connecting. We follow people from all over the world who share our interests. And eventually it leads us to considering how we can commercialize the medium. Look, Twitter was no dummy when they named the service. Birds of a feather flock together. Strength in numbers. All that. When enough people gather together, we anoint leaders. As a result, these people usually have large numbers of followers and are considered experts on whatever topic that the group flocking together is flocking around. That’s why there so many gurus. Even (especially) on the topic of the medium itself.
The euphoria stage can last a while, but then you notice new patterns emerge. ‘Leaders’ are given more power than they deserve. Guidelines are published on how anyone can be an expert if they just follow a few simple rules – which include recognizing and promoting the established experts. As new people come into the medium, you see how this pattern snowballs. The smartest people start sharing less while the power-hungry people start sharing more. Except – they mostly share things that only advance their status as experts. And it’s almost always the same things over and over. It’s then that you notice life being sucked out of the medium and being replaced with how-to manuals. Idol worship becomes commerce. At this point you enter the ‘bitter twitter’ stage and you stand back and watch regular people become whores for attention as they’re flown to places like Calcutta and Jakarta to speak to emerging markets on topics that they basically invent. Oratory skills become sharp knives that the Neuvo Experto use to carve up the Euphoric on the backs of those who desire power.
The next stage is the ‘I am losing interest – fast’ stage. After three plus years here, Twitter’s not nearly as important to me as it used to be. Yes, there are good things going on here. Yes, I follow a diverse range of people – so its not like I’m inundated with gurus in my stream. And yes, I try to share what I think is important. It’s just that what I think is important keeps changing. And it almost never has to do with the silos of marketing and social media. Except, of course, for posts like this one. I’m a writer. I like to share stories – not give advice. And I’m not half bad at storytelling. But when I write blog posts about my daughter getting braces and the real, human effect of that on me as a parent, it’s not nearly as important on Twitter as the guru who posts “5 ways to be a smarter Twitter user.” I just can’t bring myself to routinely write about social media or marketing (two things I do for a living) – even though they’re invariably the most viewed posts on my blog. I’m not in this for my status as a guru. And no, I’m not bitter at those who are – everyone has to make a living. I just find it interesting how the idea of power affects our ego – and how opportunity recycles itself as mindless minutia rather than big, human ideas.
I’m pretty sure that one day, it will be considered normal to go completely dark here. To walk away from all the hyper connecting. And it feels like that day is approaching fast.