The twitter equation

Remember last week, when you sat on the train next to that lady who was in the middle of a conversation with the guy next to her? And how you looked over her shoulder at the picture that she was showing him, and you chimed right in with a “Boy that looks delicious #food #hungry”? No?

That’s because IT PROBABLY NEVER HAPPENED.

When was the last time you unashamedly spoke to a random person? Joined into a conversation that you clearly weren’t a part of when it started? Showed a stranger a photo of what you’d just eaten for lunch? Or announced to a whole train carriage where you were going for dinner that night?

Um, yeah, that would be….never.

In a world where people are conditioned to be particularly guarded about stranger interaction, and giving away too many details about themselves – not least because apparently stalkers are everywhere, as well as identity thieves – we’ve somehow embraced a social platform that enables us to do exactly what we’re not supposed to.

That’s right, I’m talking about twitter. With over half a billion users to date, and growing, we’re not only telling the world unguardedly the random musings of our life, but also listening (well, reading) in on the lives of others, making friends, and sometimes even forming relationships with people we ordinarily would never have had a conversation with.

From my tweets alone, an idiot could derive that I’m an Aussie, I live in London, spend 97% of my waking hours thinking about my next meal, have a significant other, two blogs, and I like to travel. And that’s probably just the tip of the iceberg.

What is it about twitter that makes us feel so comfortable with disclosing so much information? Or trusting of the recommendations and opinions of strangers, on anything from restaurants, to which top we should buy, to what movie to watch?

Is it the fact that we don’t actually see the faces of the people who follow us? That we can hide behind our keyboards and mobile phones, without any obligation to engage when we don’t feel like it? That we can be as opinionated as we like, because we don’t have to face the consequences in person? That we can be as fake or as real as we want to be, since our online persona is whatever we want to make of it?

At the heart of it, people just want to be heard. We want to be listened to, and to feel like someone cares about what we think. We want feedback on what we’re doing, and for people to respond positively to us.

That’s human nature. And if we can have an audience any time of the day, no matter what we’re talking about – a place where we can voice our thoughts, as provoking, random, ridiculous, or inconsequential as they are; with no face to face consequences, but plenty of air time – that’s almost perfect, no?

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