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Twitter: One more way human connection is accelerating

There is a subtle shift going on that is accelerating how we humans are connecting over this global grid called the Internet. Regardless whether or not you are participating in this sort of connection, are even aware of it, or look at those who are using it as people who really need to get a life, there’s no question Twitter (and others like Pownce and Jaiku generally seen as being micro-blogging tools) are accelerating human connection and this is a phenomena you need to understand.

That little red dot on the earth is me just outside Minneapolis, Minnesota. Because of all of my digital breadcrumbs around the ‘net (as well as my speaking engagements, my blog and participation in a myriad of Web offerings), I’ve been able to connect with other thought leaders all over the world. Ironically, all the other online participants in my own State of Minnesota were relatively unknown to me and I wasn’t connected with most of them.

Until now. Until Twitter.

In addition to connecting with other thought leaders I’m already following (and at times connecting with people they follow), folks locally are finding/following me and thus I’m finding/following them, creating a new web of connections that’s already opening doors too numerous to recount just now.

I won’t give you a history lesson on IRC, ICQ, instant messaging and other technologies which preceded Twitter and the others, but suffice to say many methods to connect already exist in the same way that audio online existed before podcasting; video before YouTube; and online diaries before blogging. The fundamental difference is that these micro-blogging tools are easier to use than the others (or more widely distributed than proprietary instant messaging services), more efficient and persistent since there’s a trail left of messages one can backtrack and follow, and these micro-blogging tools have turned into platforms being extended by others (e.g., see this and this post).

Sounds pretty optimistic Borsch…any downsides?

Yes.

  • My #1 concern right now is not being able to pay attention and having great conversations scroll by (though I can go back and look) or, as I’ve written many times before (here, here), there’s too much information and places for all of us to pay attention to now…and yet another interruptive service seems to be too much for most people.

The Wall Street Journal wrote and captured my and many other early adopter’s feelings quite well, “These social-networking services elicit mixed feelings in the technology-savvy people who have been their early adopters. Fans say they are a good way to keep in touch with busy friends. But some users are starting to feel ‘too’ connected, as they grapple with check-in messages at odd hours, higher cellphone bills and the need to tell acquaintances to stop announcing what they’re having for dinner.

  • I can see this connecting getting out of hand as more people discover Twitter (and Twitter spam is becoming more of an issue), but blocking or choosing to follow a select few are just some of the ways we users are in control of the service.
  • Another concern not cited often — though it affects blogs and other social networking sites as well — is language and culture. I would argue that many cultural memes are being transmitted via the Internet at the speed of electrons as people connect from around the globe, but more and more language-centric social networks and non-native language Twitter-like services are closing off connections rather than opening them up.

Perhaps that’s OK at this stage of the Internet and translation software will continue its migration to real-time translations making this concern of mine a moot point. Still, there is a woman in Italy, a man in France and group of three in China that I’ve connected with, but the language and culture barriers are so formidable that our resistance in connecting often is too high for now.

What might be the gasoline on the fire of micro-blogging to really make it explode? One word: mobile. Sorry to send you off to another blog, but Michael Arrington at Techcrunch has a preview of what he’s terming “the future of social networking“, an upcoming iPhone application that will give you a sense of what will happen when location, presence and openness-to-being-connected-with-others come together in a mobile application.

But social networking isn’t just about the technology…it’s about the ease of connecting with other people and that is the essence of Twitter and other micro-blogging service’s value. This essence was put best by social media expert Stowe Boyd in his “Why I Use Twitter story”:

My Twitter Story: Why I Use Twitter

I noticed that the folks at Obvious are asking Twitter users to ‘tell their story’ to help them understand Twitter better. They ask, “Why Do You Use Twitter?”

Being connected is becoming the best way to be effective in the brave new webified world. By tapping into and supporting the passions and drivers of a swirling, ever-changing network of people, I am made better. I am made stronger, smarter, and deeper, and more together in a way that I could not be, on my own.

There is an African saying that says it is through other people that we become people.

Twitter helps us become more human, in a time when it is more important than ever before to see us as connected on this Earth, not separate; linked together, not divided; to see ourselves as elements of a whole that is greater than any, and all, of the individual parts.

Twitter is about hope and love, although the casual observer might miss that completely.

The technology will become more rich, robust and multimedia filled; people will become more willing to connect in this fashion, especially through mobile devices; and its value will increase.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments…

About Steve Borsch

I'm CEO of Marketing Directions, Inc., a trend forecasting, consulting and publishing firm in Minnesota. Prior to that I was Vice President, Strategic Alliances at Lawson Software in St. Paul where I was responsible for all partnerships at this major vendor of enterprise resource planning software products and services. Read more about me here unless you're already weary of me telling you how incredible and awesome I am.

Comments

  1. Steve, this great post really examines the scenarios and reasons why social media/communications tools may add or subtract value to interactions.

    I tend to really enjoy the fast pace of my Twitter stream, but that is because it forced me to learn a new way of absorbing the traffic – or really, the ability to not worry that I missed something.

    Regards,
    Rick

  2. Thanks Rick. I, too, find myself modifying my behavior and just started to use twhirl recently and it’s much better than a tab in Firefox that I have to refresh (also I really disliked IM-based notifications).

    BTW, just found out you’re “social media breakfast” guy and I’m going to try to make it next time (can’t this Friday). Also, check out Minnov8.com, our just started MN web and internet tech innovation blog. Suggestions on how to improve it (besides, “Hey…you have to post more often!”) will be greatly appreciated.

  3. Steve – another great post. Over here in the UK the Prime Minister’s office is on Twitter. http://twitter.com//downingstreet
    What’s cheering is that when you follow, you may well get an alert saying DowningStreet is following you. There is a real person there, and he turned up recently at one of the events organised by a UK govenment web guy Jeremy Gould … what we might call TeaCamp http://snurl.com/23ybx
    Social media connects people, for real.

  4. I go back and forth. I liked the idea that Rick presents–maybe I could abandon RSS and if I missed something, just forget about it. But when I added a couple news sites on Twitter, it clouded the conversations with real people. So I don’t see it as my total feed client (I’d love a nice AIR dashboard app that was one part FriendFeed-ish, one part editor to shoot blogs, tweets, photos, video to wherever).

    Speaking of FriendFeed, the other problem is aggregating your online identity. Which link do I leave? Luckily RSS makes connecting all these sites and services easy, but whoever can offer something clean and simple will win.

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