Inconsequential messages?

A post on Facebook from my brother in law alerted me to something that John Humphrys said about twitter.

“Educated men and women are devoting vast amounts of their time and intellectual energy sending entirely inconsequential messages.”

Yes, it’s true. People do tweet about inconsequential things. Just like people say inconsequential things on the telephone, or in the pub, or in a million other ways. Unfortunately, this has entirely missed the point. Twitter is used for a myriad of things, and even the inconsequential messages are not really inconsequential.

What twitter does:

  • Alert the world to important news from disaster zones and oppressive regimes
  • Get information from people in need of help to the emergency services in relation to the above
  • Raise awareness of causes, be they disasters, missing people, or protest movements
  • Inform and co-ordinate protesters in oppressive regimes
  • Allow planning and co-ordination of protest groups in less totalitarian environments too
  • Keep people informed hours, even days ahead of mainstream news

Those are some pretty important things, but that’s not all twitter can do. What about:

  • Learn from people of many different skills, specialisms and roles, from many different walks of life
  • Provide business networking, leading to real opportunities for jobs or new customers
  • Access to experts to help solve problems in business or personal life
  • Allow customers to force business to react by posting negative experiences
  • Allow business to interact directly with customers and potential customers for research, customer service and to provide information
  • Allow governments to release information to the public easily
  • Allow the public to talk directly with politicians and get a response

And finally:

  • Those “inconsequential” messages – social chatter, moaning, commiseration, joy, depression, support, and friendship, forming real relationships between people
  • Allow those that cannot leave the house to talk to other people and engage in all of the above

I have personally either witnessed or been involved in every one of the points raised above. None of the above would happen if people were not using twitter for inconsequential messages as they wouldn’t be on twitter otherwise! Twitter changes lives and saves lives. The last point in the list above  is a lifeline for myself and for many other sick and disabled people. If you still think that inconsequential, we might have to send someone round to sort you out. I can probably find someone through twitter for that.

Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

8 thoughts on “Inconsequential messages?”

  1. A concrete example of what you talk about, Mr existence – I’m a qualified first aider. I took the course at work because we have to have a certain number of first aiders under health and safety regs., and, fuck it, £10 a month. I’ve never used my knowledge “for real” apart from the odd sticking plaster. However last friday night I, like many others, was following events in Egypt on twitter. One person from Lebanon, who was on the phone to activists in Cairo, appealed for help with first aid for one of them who had been badly scalded. I was able to provide advice and reassurance that they were doing the right thing. Inconsequential? You decide.

  2. I should have mentioned, of course, that in the current situation there are no or very few hospitals operating as normal in Cairo – and certainly no ambulances or paramedics! The person was eventually taken to a field hospital that had been set up by the protesters themselves..

  3. This is just some one not getting it – If you don’t like it, ignore it. I don’t get radio hams, I don’t get wine, I don’t get autobiographies.

    But i don’t criticise the channel to criticse the consumer. That’s a myopic folly.

  4. I agree there are an awful lot of perfectly sensible and even life-saving uses for Twitter, but at the same time there are an awful lot of people who post inconsequential tweets. I don’t suppose that John (or indeed I) mean that all tweeters are in one camp or the other, just noting that both camps exist.
    I have a twitter account, I don’t use it much at the moment, and I only have 1 follower (family!) when I last checked, I currently use it mostly to keep up with certain things. If I log on and tweet “I’m at work” and include a link to a pic of me sat at my desk that would be an entirely inconsequential tweet.
    The brother-in-law

    1. The point I am trying to make is that even your “I’m at work” tweet would not be inconsequential. Making that tweet would get you using twitter, which would open up potential for the serious uses. Perhaps that tweet would merely help you feel more relaxed and better able to deal with something at work. Or what if through that tweet, you meet someone that then offered you a job two years down the line? Would it be inconsequential then?

  5. Not twitter specifically, but I have gotten jobs from communicating with people online, and my husband is in the process of discussing one on facebook, with a person I know from art forums.

    I could very well imagine twitter serving the same purpose. Its a communications platform – communication isnt always serious and productive but a platform that allows for it all (like twitter and facebook) allows for great things to happen via communication. We can’t dismiss inconsequential chatter without hurting the consequential chatter.

  6. I think Twitter is still finding its feet. But I think it’s very empowering to find other people other there who share a similar outlook…

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