Sad news yesterday that Stephen Fry has had enough of the trolling and vitriol that he experiences on Twitter. I’ve no doubt that for celebrities with large followerships, the bile must be overwhelming. Given Fry’s great openness about his own mental health challenges, one can imagine that the social networks, and Twitter in particular, are possibly best well avoided.
But one of the things that I think needs to be kept in mind through this is that Twitter as a platform means so many different things to so many different people. My own experience, through the people I have chosen to follow on the network, is one of debate, of news, of serendipity and of being able to meet new people. I’m not a celebrity with millions of followers, thank goodness.
However one thing I have started to become increasingly aware of in recent months is how little of the conversation in my timeline is particularly human. Increasingly I seem to be following people who, through their Twitter presence, would probably fail the Turing Test.
At one end you’ve got meaningless machines pumping out garbage about how “so-and-so is my best follower this week”. Twaddle masquerading under the misapprehension that it is in someway insightful. Or the terrible Paper.li thing that chucks out online “newspapers” collated from Tweets which I can’t believe anyone actually ever reads.
Then you have got passive retweeting – sharing someone else’s tweet with no sort of comment or context as to why, or the sharing of a headline and link to an article somewhere on the web, again with no comment. If you want to share something with the world, please take a few moments to say why.
Then there are the PR’ed press release tweets. Note to anyone who wants me to tweet about something on their behalf – it will always be my words. Life is too short to have conversations in the words of others.
Motivational quotes. Please stop. They make me want to hurl.
Clickbait that follows the Relevant/Curious/Ultra-specific model (what Dan Pink terms the “subject line” pitch) – I’ll hold my hands up to say I’ve done this in the past, but I promise to stop if you will.
Cut through all of that noise and you start to actually have some interesting conversations and all the stuff that is actually useful to me (at least).
A couple of weeks ago at the Silicon Beached event I heard Liz Pavitt from Rubber Republic talk about whether, if your (actual) brand were a person, from their online and social presence you would want to date them. I’d go one step further and ask, when you look at your own social presence online, would you fail the Turing Test? Inhumanity from trolling is certainly a problem online, but so is inhumanity from not being very human…