The Social Experiment Part 2

Previously, I detailed my efforts of getting to know better this fairly new method of communication called Twitter. Of course, with the fairly nascent rise of its usage throughout the world by pretty much everyone, it very quickly loses its ‘new’ feeling. On a more personal level, I feel as if the transition with which people have made not only to post on Twitter, but also to reading it, is a lot faster compared to other forms of communication through social media.

Comparing it to blogs and Facebook, for example, within the context of celebrities I find that they are more likely to use Twitter than they are to use an actual blog beyond an official presence on the web. By this, I mean celebrities who actually make the effort to express their ideas and opinions about certain things, rather than just promote their upcoming events and activities.

I guess it could, to a certain extent, be related to the ease with which it could be used. A few clicks here and there and whatever you wish to express will be in Twittersphere forever, for all intents and purposes. It can also be done within a very public sphere, meaning that you don’t actually need to log into Facebook to necessarily read whatever that has been written. Quick and easy, true.

But what I find most interesting is the method of consumption by the readers. One must always bear in mind that to a very large extent, content creators are only going to be as good as their readers are. It’s all about finding the right level, and on Twitter, that level is a very non-linear one.

Consider how the most recent Tweets are read. You wake up in the morning, you open up your Twitter application on whatever device you may be using, and you read about how someone has been ranting/raving/Tweeting for the past few hours or so. These rants can be long, but the Tweets are short, with a maximum of 140 characters. Basically, you could very well end up with a situation where you are actually reading things backwards, rather than just connecting the dots.

This is the part where I got to thinking a lot more about the whole technological or human determinism issue. Is this an effect that came about as a result of our usage of social media such as Twitter? Yes, blogs and Facebook are also positioned within a very non-linear (or, perhaps to be more precise, a reverse linear) structure, but they at the very least provides a bigger space within which the artist could paint.

Here, with a very constrictive limit being placed on the mode of expression, you could have a situation where people are writing shorter sentences, spreading those sentences across a number of different Tweets, or, intriguingly, leave behind little breadcrumbs with little context for you to make sense of. “Why is this so hard?”, then, becomes a challenge for you to decipher: are my students talking about a recent breakup with a loved one, or could it be that my short film journal assignment is a little too challenging for them?

Therein lies one of the biggest revelations to me in the course of my Twitter experience. The above forces the reader, then, to actually make a big effort in trying to make sense of what was written. This interactive relationship is not particularly exclusive to Twitter, of course, but because of its very limitation, becomes a defining characteristic. You can be cryptic on Facebook, but the choice for you to do so on Twitter is slightly more out of your hands. We’ll put aside the fairly in-depth discussion that we can get into about collapsing the time-space divide between fans and subjects of fandom, but of course, that certainly helps as well.

Like any other forms of media, it has also been used as a form of branding and marketing. In that light, I have decided to change my handle to @FikriJermadi. I previously used @thekingoflame handle as a form of spreading my lame jokes out there (no post-modern reverse-linear reading skills necessary, for lameness is eternal), but also to observe. Due to a number of different reasons, I now feel ready to try and use this interesting tool without the need to hide within a moniker. There's more of this to come, of that I am very sure about, but for now, it is still intriguing me, and I suspect I will spend some time chronicling some of this for you all.

I still won’t use it to arrange my lunch dates, though. Now that is something I really don’t understand…

*This post is a continuation of The Twitter Experiment.