Twitter – elitist?

I’ve been using twitter for the past couple of weeks, so thought I’d post some thoughts on it. The next one will be positive (see AJ, I’m keeping my posts short), but in this one I’ll look at the negatives.

My big issue with Twitter is that it’s not symmetrical in the way it forms relationships. In Facebook, if I make you my friend, then I am automatically your friend as well, ie we see each other’s profile, so it’s a mutual trust and respect. This is not the case in Twitter. I can follow you, but you are under no obligation to follow me.

The result of this is that I follow people who aren’t following me, and so while I can see their tweets, they don’t see mine. Far from feeling part of a global conversation one is left with the feeling of being outside the party. And rather than being democratic, it seems rather elitist to me – it is hot amongst the real neterati because we get to hear all their thoughts while they don’t have to listen to the unwashed (although bless Scoble, if you follow him, he automatically follows you). It ends up being more akin to traditional broadcast than one based around dialogue.


  • AJ Cann

    Doesn’t twitter use the term “follower” instead of friend? If so, that is much more upfront and reflective of RL relationships than the falsely symmetrical Facebook “friend” ( relationship.
    Disclosure: I don’t use Twitter. I can’t criticize the length of the posts (!), but it’s the continuous partial attention aspect ( which also which made me cut back on Facebook use (

  • D'Arcy Norman

    I certainly don’t mean to be elitist in my twitter usage – it’s just a matter of limited attention and time to devote to monitoring my twitter stream. If I follow any more people, I start missing large portions of the conversation as tweets fly by unseen. Asymmetry might be a useful strategy to manage twitter overload. I have a hard time believing Scoble actually follows over 3000 people’s tweets.He might dip into the stream and catch bits here and there, but it’s physically impossible to follow that much traffic, even if you have time to devote 24/7 to it.

  • Martin

    Hi D’Arcy. I take the point about attention span and I certainly don’t believe Scoble is sitting there thinking ‘I wonder what Martin’s up to?’ The problem is that although you may have a perfectly valid reason, and are not being elitist, the overall effect is of elitism. If everyone already at their follower limit then there is no room for anybody new. It seems like a party you have arrived late for and cannot get entry to, but can stand outside and listen to everyone enjoying themselves.
    This is different from blogging say, where you can start a blog, and if it’s good eventually you will get readers, or certainly readers for specific posts. But no-one will find your Twitter posts if you’re not being followed. It is much less democratic, and therefore elitist, in that sense I feel. This isn’t because the people using it are elitist, but a function of how the software operates.

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