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.