Things from Twitter I’d like in real life

I'm sure someone's done this before, but was thinking the other day about the raft of 'online interaction is killing real interaction' type angst we've been having and wondered if we should look at it the other way, ie why real life isn't as good as online. Here are a few things I wish I could transfer from Twitter to real life:

Hashtags – how many times have you found yourself half way through a conversation with someone when you realise you are in fact talking about different things. It then becomes too embarrassing to admit your mistake, and you realise some of your previous responses may now look a bit odd. Hashtags would avoid this so at the end of your opening sentence you would set out the appropriate tag eg #conversationwehadlastweekaboutgardenfurniture

Block – oh yes, we'd all like to block. In a physical environment you can only do this by removing yourself, or asking the other person to shut up, neither of which is desirable or advisable at times. So, when some bloke in the pub is voicing his opinion on, say, asylum seekers, you can simply block, and carry on with your own conversation.

Direct messages as back channel – again, there are times when you would like to communicate directly with only one other person in the group. We try and do this in face to face situations by adopting contorted facial expressions, which can be misread or just missed. How much easier it would be to have direct messages? eg 'I disagree with what my father is saying here, but if I argued we'd be here all day.'

@replies only visible to followers – this is quite a subtle feature in Twitter. If I send a reply to someone, then even if you follow me you won't see it, unless you follow that person too. This allows some filtering of interests. For example, if I follow someone because they are a Spurs fan, then we can have a discussion about a game (eg how we were robbed by Man Utd at Wembley because of an iPod). If you follow me as an OU person, then it's unlikely you will follow the Spurs chap too, so you won't be bored by this. If you are a Spurs fan you might follow both of us, and so join in. In real life there are times when you want to have a conversation which might be dull to some, but feel restricted from doing so.

140 character limit – come on, we we all know people who would benefit from this restriction.


  • Eingang

    I wasn’t aware of this feature and, using your example, I’m not sure it works. I definitely saw the iPod/Spurs comment, so either:
    a) it doesn’t work this way; or
    b) if OU people follow you, there are other OU people (@nogbad, maybe?) who are interested in Spurs!

  • Eingang

    OK, so we’ve ascertained it does work like that–just not that specific example as I must have shared the iPod person in common with you, but I don’t follow @Dal so your @reply example in Twitter wasn’t one I had seen.
    I actually find how it does work a bit unfortunate. While I’m not interested in Spurs and I couldn’t even tell you if that was a soccer team or some other kind of team, I was rather hoping to capitalize on “overheard” conversations that might prove of interest. For example, you happen to be discussing the use of Twitter as Eduglue for communities via @reply with someone I don’t know but would be greatly interested in knowing.
    I can see it would have its negative sides and the current implementation is probably an attempt to keep your stream more personally relevant, but oh… the lost serendipity!

  • mrsdurff

    Copied from Twitter’s Help page:
    What is an @ Reply?
    An @reply is any Twitter update directed at someone else, designated by a prefix of ‘@username’ before the message.
    People say lots of things on Twitter, and sometimes you want to say something back. In fact, early Twitter folks wanted to talk to each other so badly that they started using the @+username+message to designate an update as a reply. (For example, @joe40 I love that song too!) Since people loved using it so much, we made it an official thing. Now you can send anyone on Twitter a reply, and you don’t have to follow or be followed by a person to send one- all replies show up in the replies tab regardless of following.
    Notice it says ALL replies show up in the replies tab regardless of the following.

  • Martin Weller

    @Mrsduff – that is slightly different. What they mean there is that if you send me a reply, I will see it, even if I am not following you. What I was saying (and is the case) is that if I send a reply to someone (eg @personA) and you are following me, but NOT @personA then you won’t see this message in my updates.
    @eingang – true there is a bit of serendipity lost but we probably have enough overlap to catch most things. There will be times when I’m talking to someone about something eg a Cardiff person on a Cardiff topic when there would be no point you seeing it.

  • Jenny Ellwood

    Great post! I’d also like life to be like Photoshop – so you can change the colour/size/position of real life objects (and people) at will!

  • Alan Levine

    Not to mention when it gets really bad, you could just close the window or quite the conversation.
    Or when the party gets too loud and raucous, everyone suddenly sees a pink whale and cannot communicate anymore (they then reach for the phones to b**** out to some random party)

  • Brennig Jones

    Direct messages as back channel
    Pretty much how I run my project meetings; mandatory behaviour, especially when working with clients in the public sector. 🙂

  • Juliette Culver

    The ‘@replies only visible to followers’ only sunk in for me a few weeks ago. It’s quite clever.
    Of course, the really clever thing about twitter is the use of the @ symbol as the interface to reply to somebody. Hashtags are clever for the same reason.

  • Carl Morris

    Ha ha, this post amuses me.
    I’d like to retweet your last point – certain people must embrace brevity, YES!
    The thing with DMs as backchannel is you inevitably send one as a public message by accident. But that could be fun.
    The closest parallel is to learn another language – the corresponding pitfall is that the unwelcome people might have an understanding of it. (Like the occasion when I performed the sign language for “bullsh!t” at the dinner table and my brother-in-law’s mother exclaimed “that’s RUDE!”.
    Also, multiple accounts (personalities) would be good offline. As would search function (if only delete worked properly).
    I’ve taken a break from Twitter anyway. It’s “killing my real life interaction”… with my to-do list.

  • Araldia

    I enjoy seeing all @replies, as it allows me to possibly expand my network in other directions. I think I find most of the new people I follow via @conversations they have had with someone I follow and respect.
    I may or may not be interested in Spurs, but if I do not see the conversation, I will never know 🙂

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