I came across a really interesting blog written by Keith Lee on Social Media, particularly twitter, from a gaming perspective.
It is the same sort of thing on Twitter when people tweet celebrities and ask for a ‘RT’ – a re-tweet. People want more and more followers. They want more people to hear what they say, but for what reason? for the sake of forming an online community to discuss and debate social issues, or for the self, as Lovink believes is the case for blogs?
Perhaps it stems from the idea that social media empowers users. That through exposure on sites such as Twitter, WordPress or YouTube we are able to voice our thoughts or opinions or talents and have them heard by everyone on the Internet. That we do not need to be discouraged by the state of the public sphere in the media and in the ‘real’ world, as, online, there is a democracy, and every view can be published. People want more people to listen to them online so as to empower themselves.
Though the question remains how real this empowerment is. By having 8 followers on Twitter, am I genuinely engaging with 8 people, forming a true community with those people? Do they follow me just in the rare case that I say something that is of interest to them?
I suppose the University of Melbourne Twitter page is a much better example of what a Twitter page should be. They distribute relevant information, though also actively engage with its followers (one example of this is its compiling of students’ favourite places to study). Though, on the other hand, perhaps it is expected that the University’s page is engaged with its followers as it is, after all, a community institution. If, perhaps, more individuals could adopt the same approach, maybe we would be on our way to forming the utopian global public sphere everyone seems to assume is the destination for social media.