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Tuesday
Apr132010

Why Don't My Friends Tweet?

There’s a situation I’ve been mulling for quite some time now, and it has come into sharp relief as I’ve been working on this blog the past couple months.  My friends don’t Tweet

Now, this realization doesn’t apply only to Twitter and it doesn’t apply to many people I know.  What I’ve been pondering is the fact that my best friends, the people I talk to weekly, go the bar with, take road trips with, do not use social media nearly as much as I do.  They don’t tweet, don’t comment on blogs, and don’t use Foursquare.  I asked myself, “Why?” 

I thought about how their lifestyles and personalities affected their use of social media.  Here are some characteristics that stood out:

Relationship Status

Do single people tweet more?  Many of the persons in question are in committed relationships, on the doorstep of marriage even.  Love is a beautiful thing, but it takes a lot of work.  Perhaps the energy it takes to have a relationship takes away the desire or at least the free time to communicate on the web.  It makes sense that a close personal relationship takes preference to engaging with media or people on a further circle of friendship. 

Type of Employment

Certain professions are inherently more geared to using social media.  Friends of mine who work in PR or Journalism have much more readily embraced social media, because in many cases their personality is intertwined with their product.  Friends who work in finance or education may not have as much professional incentive to venture into the social realm online. 

Comfort Level with Tech

Partially tied in with employment, the degree of technological savvy is also a determining factor in using social media.  None of my close friends are programmers or engineers, nor do they rely on specialized computer programs for their jobs or hobbies.  Without an innate interest in the technology itself, social media can seem like an extraneous tool that cramps one’s lifestyle instead of enhancing it. 

These categories offer an interesting look into the social media habits of people ages 25-30.  There are always additional factors, however.  Two of my best friends have actively shunned the use of social media for the past five years, ostensibly for the distaste of being associated with the status quo.  One only acquiesced recently because his professional life demanded it. 

Now, while my small focus group is not on Twitter, Last.fm, or YouTube, almost every one of them is on Facebook.  That remains the king of the Internet, and their level of engagement on that site far outweighs any other.  A large chunk of the hits on this blog are directed from Facebook.  Google also garners plenty of attention, with GChat effectively replacing the IM platforms of old like AIM or Messenger, although Buzz has failed to fill any perceived need.

So what did I take away from this admittedly unscientific study?  That as much as social technology begs users to engage with the media they consume, the act remains largely passive.  As much as online profiles allow for narcissism, they also encourage voyeurism.  My group of friends, my generation, has not fully taken advantage of the avenues of communication available on the Internet.  Perhaps that is a good thing, though, as concerns about privacy become more relevant, and so much time in front of a screen can be a bit dehumanizing.  While I will continue to urge my close friends to learn about and have fun using social media, I’m quite happy to keep them close the old-fashioned way.   

Follow me @adamrmcgrath

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Reader Comments (6)

my guess: your friends don't tweet because they aren't young and hip :p

i'm half joking :p

April 13, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkatrina kay

If your friends don't see a need for certain forms of social media, they don't see themselves as missing out. You talk about encouraging voyeurism as if it's a good thing. The reason many people make twitter and facebook accounts private is to prevent cyberstalking. And with the increase of people of any sort of renown getting into trouble because of what's posted on facebook/twitter, can we really say that it's a totally good thing. People have lost jobs/scholarships because of something they said on twitter or posted on facebook. Maybe things were better when we had to think before we acted.

April 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEmer

Ultimately, I think it's about what each person thinks they can get out of it. Many people view FB and especially Twitter as places where people post statuses about meaningless things they're doing, i.e. "Just ate the best turkey sandwich ever!" Most people don't give a crap about that.

A lot of people don't realize that these sites can be great for networking, self-promoting (the good kind that writers like me need to do to keep making a living and get more clients) and just engaging in short bursts of convo or insight with people who share your industry, interests or geographic location.

Also, one area you maybe could have mentioned in addition was geographic location. I Tweet and FB because I am in another country and have friends all over the place in the States and beyond. It's a way for me to keep in touch and stay connected. If the bulk of your friends' friends are local, this won't apply to them.

April 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

@ Katrina - They are friends with me, so definitely not hip.

@ Emer - People are absolutely entitled to choose their level of engagement with social media. It's not a requirement for a meaningful life by any stretch. The media platform itself can encourage voyeurism, but I think that's a bad thing and discourage it. As for thinking before we act, that's always been a problem regular individuals and public personalities have had, now it just gets a world-wide audience.

@ Lauren - I agree there is a ton of potential to social media for networking as well as personal communication. If nothing else, these tools make it incredibly easy to keep in touch with loved ones. But yes, plenty of people do relegate their proclamations to the mundane, which can be a turnoff.

Thanks for the comments!

April 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

I gotta say I agree. I'm leaving my job in non-profit to go to one in a social media.At my current job having a blog might as well be the same as having a unicorn. Whereas at my new job the CEO has a blog, and tweets and all that good stuff. So I think it will be a sweet transition. But I think I fall somewhere in the middle. Sometimes I just prefer to be with my friends in person, whereas sometimes your tweet are all I need to know about you ha!

April 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBoomka

I am one of those you describe as on the cusp of marriage and so on who doesnt have a twitter account, blog, etc. I don't think being single has as much of an effect on using these types of media unless you are trying to meet girls through facebook, like many guys tried to do when it was a college specific network.

I consider myself a technically savvy guy minus the whole social media aspect of it. I don't really like to share everything about myself and my facebook privacy settings are as strict as I can make them. I am a very open person with my friends but the whole thought of people I don't know getting to access my thoughts is off putting.

I do agree that journalism majors and people who need to promote their business are much more likely to be all over these sites. I can't tell you how many stupid facebook updates I get from my friends in real estate. Being a terrible Lang. arts student does keep me from responding to many things because I personally hate expressing myself through text and so on. Writing this is grueling enough. So I think i'll stop here. Good read...

April 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoe G

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