Twitter's Imaginary Cliques
Recently I’ve heard rumblings around the Blogosphere and the Twitterverse that “cliques” are forming on Twitter. Cliques that are intentionally excluding people from conversations, cliques who are self-interested, existing only to promote their latest book or seminar, or just trying to be the most popular. I know the self-interested promoters exist. I unfollow them all the time.
But, I have a problem with people throwing around words like “cliques” when it comes to Twitter, and other social networks, and here’s why:
1) Communities are like that. I follow some 700 people. When I decide to spend some time hanging out on Twitter, I probably scan tweets from 50 to 100 people. Of those 50 to 100, I probably follow conversations of about 10. Of those 10, I probably get into conversations with about 3. Typically, I have about 20 or so people I converse with regularly on Twitter. Does that make me cliquey? No. It makes me part of a community. I couldn’t possibly have conversations with everyone I meet on the street in my neighbourhood every day. I simply don’t have the time. So I centre out those people who share common interests, a common sense of humour, etc. And I engage them. I’m not out to exclude anyone, I’m trying to be practical about my interactions. And so are most Twitterfolk.
2) Some of these people are friends. I have several people on Twitter that I consider friends. Many of those friends I have met in person, spent time with. Others I haven’t met yet, but for whatever reason we have connected online. It stands to reason that friends will talk with friends. They are not trying to be exclusive of others, they are just being friends.
3) Jealousy will get you nowhere. It seems that most of the “clique” accusations are aimed at the celeb bloggers. Someone sent a Tweet to Robert Scoble and he didn’t write back right away? Oh, he must be a snob. He must be in a clique. I’m serious, these are the things I’m reading sometimes. Here’s the unique thing about the social media celeb phenomenon. The famous people are part of our community. It’s like we all show up at the same nightclub, and they are in the room with us. But you know what? They are there to have a good time with THEIR friends, too. So if they don’t run over and talk to YOU, don’t take it personally. Make a nice comment if you want (as long as you are sincere). But don’t expect Mr. or Ms. Celeb Blogger to come rushing over to give you a big hug and be your best friend. Like you, they have other things to do. Move on and make your own communities. I find that just about everyone is as interesting as Mr. Popular.
I do believe that Twitter’s “cliques” are imaginary. In my social network interactions, I find overwhelmingly that people are open, sincere, helpful and just plain nice. And the ones that aren’t those things – they aren’t worth my time.