About a week ago I posted Twittering is a difficult art form – if you are doing it right. While Griff Wigley agreed, I also got two interesting and somewhat dissenting reactions from Kate and Heather.
First, in my defense, that post was targeting journalists and professional communicators, just one of many posts in a series, especially in this vein, exploring the best ways for media and comms folks to use Twitter.
Twitter is just another medium. Like blogs, Twitter can be used in any way one wants. I am not going to tell anyone “you are doing it wrong”.
Some media companies just broadcast – put their RSS feeds into Twitter with zero conversation. That is fine – instead of checking them by going to my Google Reader, their feeds come to me automatically on Twitter. That is fine.
Some organizations use Twitter for announcements, news, events, to explain and apologize for technical glitches and, if needed, to respond to questions. That is also fine.
Some people use Twitter to communicate with friends, like texting without having to pay for a texting plan. And that is fine.
Some people use Twitter to livetweet conferences. And that is fine, too.
Some people use Twitter to do quirky and funny stuff. @big_ben_clock tells time. @shitmydadsays is funny. @FakeAPStylebook is funny.
A classroom of 8th-graders are using Twitter to re-enact and explore Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’. And that is great.
In the run-up to the last Passover, a bunch of rabbis got on Twitter and re-enacted The Exodus – that was funny as well. Great stuff. Cool use of the platform.
Some people use Twitter to do science. Way cool!
So, there is no one proper way to use Twitter. But for journalists, mindcasting is a good idea to explore.
Kate suggests that mindcasting vs. lifecasting is a gendered division. Perhaps. I am not sure. Is the idea that men impart information (semantic language) while women prefer to socialize (phatic language) itself a gender stereotype?
I follow 3,890 people on Twitter. Some are feeds, some are friends/lifecasters, some are quirky and funny, a couple are celebrities, but most are doing some form of Mindcasting. Not 100% (that seems impossible) but anywhere between 50% and 80% mindcasting, the rest being lifecasting, chatter with friends, etc. Stuff easy to skip in one’s stream.
And of all those people I follow, I could not detect a gender division. It is impossible to parse 3,890 people by gender in any automated way, but I think I follow slightly more women than men, and most of them are wonderful mindcasters. So, at least within the self-selected sample of people on Twitter and me-selected sample of people to follow, men and women are equally likely to be mindcasters and use the platform in the journalistic/media/communication-useful way.
Perhaps some of the confusion arose due to distinction between ‘personal’ and ‘private’. If you tweet every time you stop by Dunkin’ Donuts, it’s lifecasting. But if you are having a special meal in a special place, it is somewhat mindcasting. If you are a chef or a food critic, tweeting about food IS your job and people expect you to do that often – that IS mindcasting for you.
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How can you possibly find the time to pay attention to that flood of verbiage?
That is a good question. I do not look at my main stream on Twitter almost at all. I look at @replies, I use saved searches, I use Lists, I use Twitter Times and HourlyPress – all tools designed, either by me or by others, to filter the wheat from the chaff, to push at me the information and links that many of the people I chose to follow find important or interesting. Probably 90% of tweets never come to my attention, and I don’t miss them or care. The most important 10% does come to me.
Linguistics can answer those questions about language and gender.
In short, women do tend towards rapport and men do tend towards report.
For the long version, consider checking out Tannen’s book:
Yes, I have read Tannen’s book a long time ago. I was very careful about caveats about sampling – perhaps people I follow tend to be mindcasters, and they happen to be (a little more than) 50% female. I cannot tell anything about the population at large. Perhaps the lifecasting folks, of which perhaps there are more women, tend to flock to Facebook instead of Twitter, as it is a better platform for sharing private (as opposed to personal) information, better provacy settings, etc.
I suppose someone would have to make a corpus comparison of facebook and twitter to really get a good image of what
I’ll have to add that to my list of potential research projects.
I don’t know why that cut me off…
…a good image of what is going on with mindcasting and lifecasting.
Hi Bora, thanks for sharing more of your thinking on this. Just one more thought:
Of course it’s a stereotype. I’d like to think that was part of my point. (By the way, I also noted that you were talking about journalism in my post, and that led me to think about science.) This stereotype is also part of cultural conditioning that we receive practically from the moment of our birth, both that women do more sharing of the personal, and for us to value it less than imparting information.
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