In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

Is Twitter The New Veranda?

Posted 11/16/2009 by Grant Mitchell

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I have been trying to immerse myself in the social media phenomena. This has not been an easy, intuitive process for me. The internet and the seemingly infinite numbers of ways to communicate on it are not something that my generation seems to understand readily.

I am using the internet to communicate in many different ways. The least social form, and also the oldest, is email. I am also using Twitter these days, have a Facebook site, and post on my Senate website. I also drove the creation and implementation of this site, the Liberal Senate Forum. The site was designed for all the Liberal Senators to communicate what we are doing on various issues and to listen to public input.

Emailing, for me, is pretty straight forward. It’s mail without the paper and the stamp.

The websites make sense too. The only thing that I have had a tough time understanding is why people visit a site. I am told that frequent blogging does. But then this raises the chicken and the egg question. If it takes blogs to attract you to a site, how do people know about the site to see the blog in the first place? It is a leap of faith to accept this. I am, however, convinced that quality material is somehow discovered and attracts more and more readers.

Lately, I have been doing a lot of Twittering. In doing this, I have come to several conclusions and observations:

  1. There really is very little grandstanding or ‘big talk’ on Twitter. On the contrary, the writing is thoughtful, informative, tastefully funny and does not try too hard. There is, as a result, a sincerity and integrity that I had not really anticipated.
  2. The people using Twitter are not really that young. In fact, statistics I have seen suggest that the average ‘Tweeter’ is between thirty and forty.
  3. There is something compelling about Twitter. Opening up Twitter each time brings with it the anticipation of what messages you might have received, or what interesting ideas have been circulated.  
  4. You can have a conversation about any number of things with individuals or with your whole group of followers. It is personal without being too intrusive and I think that that is much of its appeal.
  5. There is also the element of finding out new things with a group of people who have chosen to follow you and you them. It is as though others have sifted through information and what they give you is significant and worth your time to read.

It strikes me that years ago people built houses with verandas so that they could sit at the front of their houses and talk to neighbors as they went by or came to visit. It was an important way of being social, exchanging information and discussing ideas. Twitter, I think, is a tremendously powerful form of social networking. It is personal but not threatening; you can evaluate who you are communicating without any pressure, and you can stop communicating with someone without any discomfort or awkwardness. Is Twitter the new veranda?

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