Hail the banalities of Twitter

By Jon Bounds on Jul 9, 09 12:54 PM in Business

This column is wrong (go read it, fume, come back). But I don't think it's malicious. People have accused it of being trolling (deliberately winding up people online), of being stupid, of being lazy, of being ill-informed. Me, I just think it was something easy and (to Mr Lamb's mind) quite amusing.

It's not though, it's part of an unfortunate trend in deliberate misunderstanding that is making the job of increasing digital (and by extension social) participation more difficult. John Lamb says "social media is banal".

First, let's get the easy stuff out of the way. A communications platform cannot be banal. The use of it by people can be; but that's a good thing.

The so called banalities allow people to build relationships that are then used to do serious weighty stuff, an example from our fine city is how stupid things like a pantomime on Twitter (covered by the proper newspaper and featuring its editor) lead to serious long and hard work on civic activism such as the Big City Talk project. It's not a co-incidence that many of the people contributed to both.

As someone in PR John should be excited over the wealth of real information about their desires, likes, dislikes and activities people are willing to share with him. No more guessing or expensive polls or focus groups -- here are people all to willing to tell him exactly what they think (on Twitter and on the Post site today they're telling him exactly what they think).

Less simply it's a shift in the way we communicate. After you own the means of connection, communication becomes free and simple. So easy that we don't have to give thought about whether each utterance is worthy -- individually they may not be, but by communicating a sense of ourselves our connections build and real, important, couldn't be less banal, things are allowed to evolve. Communication is now (almost) free and can (almost) be done without taking any time from other tasks.

For all it's faults, if you're unconvinced, have a shufftie through Clay Shirky's book Here Comes Everybody. The organisation he talks about can't happen without the (to be honest not frequent) "Bacon, sausage and eggs" messages to give each a picture of who they're organising with.

I'm having a cup of tea, and as Ben says in comments, on Monday myself and other people who have built these connections online will be having a pint. Mr Lamb, please do come and join us.

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