Wanna be in my gang?

I’ve been using Twitter now for some years. It is the single reason I exist in the online world. It meets so many of my needs all in one place that it’s honestly really hard to think what there was before Twitter. Well, I know, but it was all boring stuff – MSN Messenger, ICQ, chatrooms, all boring stuff. Suddenly, I had a place I could access a network of like-minded people, information on the largest array of topics I never knew I wanted to learn about, generally chat shit, and most surprisingly make some friends.

In that time, I’ve also enjoyed learning about finer pieces of Twitter, such as the etiquette. And there’s a lot of bloody etiquette. You have to start learning about what the trending topics mean, how much attention to give to them, and what purpose they serve. You have to learn about hashtags and how they are used, how they’re devised and how you become part of the conversation. You have to learn about how to spot bots from real people and discern which accounts are just there for spam.

So once you get passed all that, and you’re following people, they’re following you back, and you’re navigating your way with relative ease, comes quite probably the biggest challenge in being comfortable with Twitter. Those bloody cliques.

I don’t remember when I started noticing cliques existing on Twitter. The hashtags make it obvious – #lrnchat, #connectinghr, #biztalk, #twoptips, #bbcqt, #hrblogs, #earlyshift. And even I’ve been guilty of using and promoting hashtags – #wimbledon, #ldconnect, #ldblogs, #ldcu all cases in point. But they’re there. A group of people having a jolly good natter about that topic, connected with something in common, and generally creating their own buzz about stuff.

And the one thing they’ll all claim is that they’re inclusive. Except that they’re not. By their very nature, they are singling out a group of people. The hashtag itself is a call to arms for people interested in joining that conversation. You’re either part of it or you’re not. Is there a membership? Can you opt out? Is there an expectation to use the hashtag in every conversation? What happens if you hijack a hashtag?

Oh cripes, suddenly it’s not as fun a place as I thought it was. Until I realise that actually none of that matters. Not on Twitter at least. In life outside of Twitter, what would I do if I see a clique, or if I’m aware enough that I’m part of a clique? I break free and do my own thing. I wrote some while ago about the power of conformity, and we should never be made to feel we have to conform. Conformity can be useful to set social norms and the such like, but once they stop serving a purpose we all have the right to partake or not at our leisure.

I’m all for doing things that are useful, meaningful and helpful. When they stop fulfulling those aspirations, then we should feel no obligation to falling into line. We all use Twitter for our own purposes, and it helps us to achieve a variety of things, but once we start to feel bound by etiquette, is when we should say to ourselves that you’re just not doing that any more.

On Friday 17th August I’m running an event called Positive Psychology in Application. It’s going to cover a range of topics to do with Positive Psychology. Book now to attend and learn more.

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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

6 thoughts on “Wanna be in my gang?”

  1. Great post Sukh, which touched on themes I have been thinking about myself. Indeed, my last blog post, on Jargon and the (over) use of acronyms as barriers to inclusion, is directly related. I was interested to see you use the word ‘clique’ here in relation to Twitter, because I often feel uncomfortable, almost as tho’ I’m eavesdropping, when some people use Twitter as a transparent – and showy – interpersonal communication tool. There’s an element of “look at us, we’re having a really interesting conversation about [insert topic here]…”, when, in fact, it’s a private conversation. It clutters up my timeline and is an unnecessary distraction. All that said, I think #tags are great, for isolating topics and subject matter sharers. I wouldn’t want to be without Twitter – and contributors like yourself – either!

    1. There is certainly an interesting set of dynamics with hashtags on Twitter, and I guess that’s what I’m making mention of here. We play with them as we see fit. I tend to watch the hashtags and see if and when I can play with them.

      I agree, I wouldn’t be without Twitter, and we have to just find a way to make it work for us.

  2. That’s interesting Niall. I totally get that. And I think this is a great blog subject Sukh.

    Having been tweeting just for a few months, it has taken a while to work it all out. I have a bit of fun with the hashtags, my favourite being #wassock (bless you Father Rick) although it’s an epithet more than a group (who’d wanna be in that one).

    I guess twitter is just a reflection of life in relation to people getting a bit cliquey. I don’t often feel excluded but when I do, I reckon it’s either me imagining it, or occasionally it’s true and then I behave on twitter as I do – just ignoring any silliness and trying not to take it personally. If someone is doesn’t want me to dip into a public conversation, then I figure that’s their issue not mine. The vast majority seem to enjoy a little interjection, and that seems to be how we’re all meeting each other.

    Thank you for writing this.

    1. I think you’re right, the vast majority are fine with a little interjection. I guess when you’ve been using it as long as I have, you can start to see that some people get protective over such things, as they do in real life.

    2. Great post Sukh, and Meg, I love your wise comment. You are absolutely right that peoples’ behaviour on twitter needs not to be taken too seriously. Mostly I find twitter fun and useful and it’s befn wonderful for meeting people.
      Sukh’s reminder not to be cliquey is useful – I don’t want to only interact with the people I’ve already met; instead I do hope I continue to meet more people. Also I think it’s fun to follow a really diverse bunch. Eg I enjoy reading education related tweets.

  3. Hi Sukh,

    Boy did this post resonate with me. Somehow as humans we do like to seek out our own and draw them close to us. It is one of our great strengths but also a great weakness. I recall when I first joined twitter last year and took part in my first twitter chat – I immediately got blocked by the chat organiser becuase I didn’t ask the right questions. And funny enough, recently that person has unblocked me, because, well…I guess I am saying the right stuff now!

    It was very silly, but I felt like I was back in school and had been excluded from the “popular kids”.

    I agree wigth Nial – it can feel like you are eavesdropping dropping on other conversations. Twitter is one of the most “democratic” social media tools available. I love how the mix of professions and people from all over the world can get together and chew the fat about anything. It is our modern day amphitheatre, but we need to be careful not to stone or jeer the inclusion away.

    Best wishes,
    Fiona.

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