Friday, March 16, 2007

QotW7: Twitter For Twits?

I’ve always liked instant messaging. I think it’s probably the greatest thing ever to be invented (after the Internet of course). Being a fiercely loyal consumer of MSN, I was skeptical when I first signed on with Twitter. A quick exploration around the site had me clueless. The name sounded absurd, the lack of security was absurd, even the thought of me using it long-term (not just for the blog assignment) was absurd. I didn’t understand what was going on. I felt like a twit (pun intended) because all I saw was an empty page. It was only after a little trial and error and that friends started to join in I started getting the hang of it. Before I know it, I’m logging in multiple times a day. I never expected myself to get hooked. I like how it connects me to everyone at once, and that I can tell others “what I’m doing right now.” And as I dig deeper, I realize it isn’t just some useless website. It is more than that. Twitter is something that has a life of its own.

Rheingold defines virtual communities as "social aggregations that emerge from the [Internet] when enough people carry on those public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace”. (Fernback & Thompson, 1995) But it does not necessarily mean that there has to be a strong bond among all the members. For example in Twitter, there is no need for one to know another personally. The adding of friends is not restricted and sorely up to the individual. Twitter to me is considered a virtual community simply because it enables people to interact with one another in the virtual world. The site allows users to send messages via the phone or instant messaging and they can receive updates from other selected users via the web, IM, or SMS. (Twitter, 2007) The term virtual community is more indicative of an assemblage of people being "virtually" a community rather than being a real community. The special thing about virtual communities like these is that despite the lack of social presence, people are still able to sustain productive and supportive relationships. (Wellman et al., 1996) Everything is text-based; what we want to say and how we want to say it is communicated through the keyboard. This works somehow even though one may not know how the other looks like.

Participating in a virtual community is not just about forging relationships. Through Twitter, users can exchange pleasantries and argue, engage in intellectual discourse, conduct commerce, exchange knowledge, share emotional support, make plans, brainstorm, gossip, feud, fall in love, find friends and lose them, play games, flirt, create a little high art and a lot of idle talk. (Fernback & Thompson, 1995) It reminds me a little of IRC (Internet Relay Chat) where information overloads because a huge bunch of people are communicating at the same time and it tends to get messy. With so many useful features available on the site, Twitter has suddenly become more instantaneous than any other IM service. I am now a humbled convert with the many other addicted converts.


Fernback, J., & Thompson, B. (May, 1995). Virtual Communities: Abort, Retry, Failure?. Retrieved March 14, 2007 from

Wellman, B., Salaff, J., Dimitrova, D., Garton, L., Gulia, M., & Haythornthwaite, C. (1996). Computer Networks As Social Networks: Collaborative Work,Telework, and Virtual Community. Annual Review of Sociology, 26: 213-238. Retrieved February 7, 2007, from

Twitter (2007). Retrieved March 14, 2007 from

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