Does it Really Make a Difference?

It amazes me that Twitter is becoming so popular in our social lives.  Millions of people coming together around some kind of function and putting forth ideas, beliefs, fact-checks, and insults is both exciting and fun.  My first real experience with Twitter was during the 2012 presidential debates as I have mentioned in my “Digital Defiance” blog.  Listening to the news anchors on television talk about the millions of live tweets, tweets that I had engaged in, made me feel connected to my fellow viewers.  Before I was in my WRT232 class, I was, in a way, against Twitter and other forms of social media.  Although I have been a very casual Facebook user for a number of years, I never really cared about it that much.  Bottom line, before WRT232, I was just not into social media.  Being calm, cautious, and low key is just what I am by nature, and there is really no place for that in the realm of new media.  Even through the first couple weeks of class I remained skeptical of the whole thing.  It was not until the first debate that I discovered what Twitter was really about.  It was also then that I determined that Twitter was becoming a second platform for political and social discourse which has both negative and positive aspects.

Like I said in “Digital Defiance” and above, I was never into social media, but now I find myself looking at Twitter on a daily basis.  There is something almost addicting to it.  I know that it is ultimately pointless, and I often think about how none of my “real” friends are even on Twitter, but I still look anyway.  For example during television programs I watch and things going on in the news are things that I frequently look for on Twitter.

But why?Image

I think a lot of it has to do with the feeling of participation, rather the illusion of participation.  During the debates, it was really cool seeing what everyone had to say about certain things and what really peaked the interest of the users.  On top of that it was really cool to feel connected with other viewers, and it’s really cool to “hear” everyone’s voice.  It’s all very cool.  But that’s it.  It is just cool.  Like a novelty item, it serves no function other than to amuse us.  The news anchors say that there are millions and millions of tweets during the debates…And? So what? Are Romney and Obama going to change their plans because of it? are my own opinions really going to change because of Twitter trends?  Not very likely, which is why I say it is just a novelty.  Let me just be clear; I am not at all trasImagehing Twitter, I have recently discovered how to enjoy it and the function it serves.  All I am stating is that the function Twitter serves in regard to political discourse in all reality is pointless.  For instance, my classmate Anthony (@RealTonyRone) and I could go back and forth on this issue all day (see fig 2), but when all is said and done nothing will have changed.  We may agree to disagree, but that will still leave us with divided opinions, which is just a normal part of being human.

Regardless of what I have to say, there is no doubt that live tweeting the debates was a very popular thing for users to do.  There was so many tweets that it was impossible to keep up with all of them.  By the time I got through ten tweets, much less respond to anyone, there would be forty new ones.  That was something I actually found a bit annoying.  I cannot understand how anyone could read every single tweet.  It is said that everyone’s voicImagee can be heard on Twitter, but I do not think that is true.  When I think about this I wonder if other users realize what I am talking about.  It brings into question the Slate article I read in class which talks about how Twitter is going to start gauging itself toward offering a more passive experience for its users.  For me, it already is a passive experience.  Nothing about it really educated me in political matters, nor swayed my opinions on anything.  It was just a fun and somewhat interesting thing to do with my hands while watching these debates.  It is these reasons that I am skeptical about the role of social media like Twitter in regard to political discourse.

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About Rollin Nolan

Full-time student at Oakland University majoring in writing and rhetoric. Addicted to the outdoors. Fishing fanatic. Calm, easy going guy. Quite familiar with most walks of life and I use it to always look at things from all angles.
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11 Responses to Does it Really Make a Difference?

  1. kmscipio says:

    When I was reading your article I found myself thinking about the questions you were asking such as does everyone have a voice on twitter. I would have to agree with you and say they do not because everything an individual posts on twitter is not read or is not spread around for others to read and think about. So I do think that twitter is fun site but maybe not the best site to post your political arguments on.

  2. My experience with Twitter is pretty similar to yours. While I never used to tweet anything myself or follow any accounts, except a select few celebrities (like Roger Ebert) that I particularly cared about, after live tweeting the debate my use of Twitter has really opened up and I use it every day now.

    But I’m not sure I agree that Twitter is just a gimmick, or that it only offers the “illusion” of participation. I get a lot of my news info from Twitter, which influences the way I think and act on local or political issues. Following some of Oakland University’s Twitter accounts helps me stay engaged with things around campus, for instance. When I have conversations with people on Twitter, they’re just as real as if we had them through text messages, e-mail, or snail mail.

    I understand your point that not everyone’s tweets will get noticed. That is very true. But I think Twitter still holds a lot of potential for true participation and interaction.

    • My New Media says:

      Yes I can understand its use on the local level, such as on campus. That is a good point to which I did not think about in depth, thanks for that. But on the national level I am not so sure as of right now. The potential is definitely there and I am sure it will be different in the future.

  3. leyandriam says:

    Nolan,
    You know your my favorite guy but I would have to disagree on the purpose that Twitter serves on the political debate. Yes it is cool to see what other people have to say on such a topic, but Twitter can also be used as a learning tool. It depends on who is twitting but you can learn a lot of useful information. For example. I started following Mitt Romney on Twitter just to see what the guy was really all about. I know that Mitt isn’t personally logging in and tweeting but I was interested in what his take on many things were. Whenever he tweeted a link, I would read it and so on and so forth. After a while I started learning more about Gov. Romney. I still don’t like him but Twitter helped me to understand a little bit more of his campaign.

  4. gekeatin says:

    I am not sure that you received my previous comment so I am going to write it again…Nice job on the lay out of your article. I liked how you imbedded the pictures and changed the color of main words to orange. It is very eye catching and different then other blogs. The only thing I would suggest is that you make the title stand out more by making it a different color or larger font or something. Over all great job!

  5. theolentangy says:

    It’s true what you said about not seeing eye-to-eye after a political discussion with someone; it’s very rare. I don’t think I’ve ever swayed someone or have been swayed myself. Luckily, that is the ideal result from political discourse. The practical result, assuming people speak logically and present ideas and opinions in a clear way, is mutual understanding, and something I’ve achieved on Facebook and Twitter in the past.
    You’re also right that Twitter isn’t formatted to support millions of people all talking at once about the same #. Note that Twitter can and does handle thousands talking at once; but US presidential debates are simply too much to handle. If Twitter wants to become more politically oriented, it does need to alter how it presents content to the user.

  6. jmromlei says:

    Great post. I previously felt the same way as you do about Twitter: it’s a novelty, but nothing important. However, since WRT232, I feel that Twitter is actually more than just “something to do.” Twitter is a great place to have conversations as well as find out facts; during the presidential debate, Twitters such as politifact actually confirmed whether or not the statements the candidates made were factual. While someone could easily see this after the fact, having this information at your fingertips as you’re watching the debate gives you more insight during the event which can more easily help shape your opinions. Overall, I can certainly see where you’re coming from, but I think you shouldn’t brush Twitter off so easily; maybe it will surprise you.

  7. Ann Jerzowski says:

    Nolan, I have never been on Twitter. I attended a class run by a local author who suggested Twitter is a tool. Use it only to tease a reader to continue reading what you write by going to your blog/website. Sounds like a good idea to me.

  8. Pingback: Project 2: New Media and Civic Engagement | Marshall Kitchens

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