“Anyone who doesn’t love Twitter is an idiot. They’re being a ridiculous Luddite or taking a stance. Twitter is a way of filtering the news. You tailor your own timeline so who you follow reflects your interests.” So said TV history presenter and historian Dan Snow in an interview with The Guardian this summer.
His comment helped me pin down my topic for this blog, the idea for which had been buzzing around my head for a few months already. Why do I love social media? Because it helps me find more of what I’m interested in.
To look at my Twitter news feed, you’d think that I am food-obsessed South African who lives in London, is fascinated by social media and works in content marketing. Oh, hang on, I am all of those things. And that is exactly my point. Twitter is like having a perpetually up-to-date newspaper that is automatically curated for me based on who I’ve chosen to follow.
So when Thomasina Miers and the team behind Street Feast London announced Chilli Chilli Bang Bang – a chilli-themed food festival – I already knew about it and had booked tickets before a story about the event ran in the Evening Standard. When one of my favourite American food writers (who I didn’t know existed until I discovered his blog) was scheduled to do a talk on Parisian food in London, I knew as soon as he’d decided to do it. And when a South African choreographer’s take on Swan Lake was part of a festival at Sadler’s Wells, I was able to pounce on tickets long before they sold out.
When I actually sit down and think about it, social media plays quite a prominent role in my social life. Not just because I use Facebook to arrange things, but because blogs and Twitter are where I find ideas for things to do. For someone who was never one of the ‘cool kids’ (and I know that I’m giving away my only-just-a-Millennial age by saying a word like ‘cool’), social media has enabled me to always be ‘in the know’ about the things that interest me.
All of this brings me back to Snow’s point that on Twitter you can “tailor your own timeline so who you follow reflects your interests.” I really don’t understand people who tell me that Twitter is not for them because they aren’t narcissistic enough.
Really? So does walking into the newsagent and choosing to buy one newspaper over another make you a narcissist? Of course not. It means that you’ve made a decision about which newspaper will filter news the way you want to read it.
And if their narcissism argument applies to the navel-gazing nature of some peoples’ tweets, I completely agree. Twitter is not a broadcast channel – it is a channel for sharing what interests you and finding more things that interest you. So if you’re not interested in Miley Cyrus’ world view – don’t follow her on Twitter or Instagram. And if you don’t think that your followers will want to see pics of your lunch on a daily basis, don’t share them.
Social media is a tool. What you get out is all down to how you use it.