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Why do you Twitter?

Now that a good portion of the global society has signed onto Twitter and it’s talked about daily in print, broadcast and online media, I think it’s safe to say it has gone mainstream.  (Not new news)

The recent Twitter trouble following the Web attack that left many without an outlet to share, brought to a head, a question I had been pondering for some time – why does the vast majority use Twitter? Do they do it because they genuinely love to live out loud? Do they tweet to stay in touch with friends, colleagues or customers? Or do they do it because they don’t want to be left of out of the crowd – fearful they will miss out on something if they aren’t tweeting?

Is Twitter more about the crowd affect rather than a genuine desire to share?

Mixed posts from users the day twitter slowed to a crawl proved there are people on both sides of the fence. While most posts were of deep concern – wondering when Twitter would return – some were of temporary relief. Here’s a sampling from the day twitter was down:

“twitter, you’re letting me down. how do i know what my friends are doing when they’re on the go?! I feel lost.”

“tweeting from the apple store cuz twitters down on my phone…YAYY
TWITTER YOU’RE BACK!!<333”

“So has twitter been down all day or is that just me? It was kinda makin me mad and then I realized, twitter is NOT that big of a deal(:”

“When Twitter is down it’s pretty apparent how nonessential it is. It’s basically just a noise machine. Today was quiet and it was nice.”

An article in the Wall Street Journal posted the following day, also found differing views on the issue in which one source said, “The truth of the matter is, I got back 10 minutes of my morning — not to have to think of something interesting to twitter which is so damn hard at 5 a.m.”

Meanwhile, MC Hammer who was quoted in the article had a completely different take on Twitter: “My immediate thought was, ‘There is no replacing this platform…I couldn’t satisfy the need to communicate. For me, it would be the equivalent of going outside to get on the freeways and find that the freeways are closed down.”

If some users think of Twitter as a chore or something they should do rather than want to do, why do they continue to use it?

Patrick Harter (@tryharter), owner of Provision Team, a management and consulting firm, said, “They feel compelled maybe, or for some, they look at it as a potential money-maker, not a useful tool. For me it is all about the community, and keeping people in touch with who I really am. Many others do not see it as this.”

Brent Spore (@iboughtamac) of Synergy said many in the majority, or mainstream, may be using social media for the wrong reason. Somewhere along the way someone either told them they should be on it or the lure of the crowd drew them in. Regardless of their motive, many often feel they should create different personas for various social media outlets, and, as a result feel fractured.

“The core thread of social media is to have life,” he said. “Just live life. Be the same regardless of where you are. Just be you. Don’t get on Twitter just because someone told you to get on it. If you don’t like that level of interaction, if you don’t understand the value of just being yourself and how you are more interesting than you think you are, and you think you have to invent these personalities, you’re not ready for social media.”

Could the reactions to the outage also be an indicator of where Twitter is in its life cycle? Following the bell curve model, Twitter has been embraced by the innovators and early adopters, and certainly has crossed the chasm to the early majority. Now, some in the majority find it a relief when Twitter is temporarily dismantled. So how much longer will they stick around? Will people begin to turn away from Twitter? Could it be on its dissent to the late majority then the laggards? Or will the majority fall to the wayside, while the early adopters and innovators become the primary users once again?

Brent said it is like a fad to many people. They feel like they have to jump on the bandwagon, attach it to their persona, and once they get tired of maintaining it, they will leave and find the next trend to attach to their persona. He said many people are there for the wrong reason – whether feeling like they should be or trying to figure out how to monetize it – and they fail to see the true value.

“The people that don’t get the true value will fall to the wayside,” he siad. “They will jump on the next train that comes along. They’ll latch it onto their persona and they’ll try to maintain it until they get tired. Then they’ll fall off again. They think that’s what they need to do.”

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