Is social media making me meaner?

I was chatting with a colleague earlier today and he asked for my input on something he had recently heard. Basically, he suggested that social media is making the population snarkier. The reasoning goes a little like this:

(1) If we assume that the reason most people post status updates, comments, Tweets, etc. is to get attention, and

(2) If we assume that snarkiness is more likely to get attention than otherwise banal posts, then

(3) Logically, people should be increasing the snarkiness of their postings.

Since I am rather obsessed with observing these media outlets, my friend asked if I had noticed this. And I had to really think about it. The logic does have a degree of face validity. It makes me think of Generation Me, a book I bought a year or two ago that I still haven’t read (I’ve been busy!). The book looks at people born after about 1970: a generation of people who are more self-absorbed and have less respect for others than their forebears. For the me generation, it often is about “me, me, me,” and social media support the projection–and sometimes shouting–of that individual’s identity throughout the world.

Look at Twitter. I will admit I am an avid user, and I use it for a variety of purposes, from keeping in touch with friends to posting news links to venting frustration (in 140 characters or less!). But if we break Twitter down to its most basic question–What are you doing?–it perpetuates the idea of me! Me! ME! The same can be said of Facebook status updates, which can be updated innumerable times a day if one so chooses.

But moving back to the question at hand, I have a hard time believing that social media are reshaping users’ identity in such a way as to make them snarkier, meaner, or posting solely to get attention. Obviously, these sites let users play with identity in a way that is more difficult–or even impossible–in an offline interaction. But why be mean to a friend on these sites when they know where you live? With Facebook at least, a key difference in these interactions from more anonymous sites is that the vast majority of Facebook “friends” constitute pre-existing offline relationships (see Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007 for empirical support).

We can also look to other forms of media as introducing snarkiness into our daily lives. The two examples that pop to mind immediately as homes of snarky content are someecards and lolcats. So then, the question becomes: are sites like these a response to increasing snarkiness or are they making snarkiness more acceptable? Or both?

For me, the most basic question I come to is, Is snarkiness even a problem? I am about as snarky as a person can be, but I generally constrain my snarkiness in such a way as to make it clear that it is a part of my sense of humor and not a comment to be taken seriously. I also find myself evaluating my relationship to the individual before commenting on a photo or status update or responding to a tweet, and the snarkiness only comes out when I know the person will appreciate (or at least understand) the joke. But do I do it to draw attention to myself? Without probing too deeply into my subconscious, I would say not really.

So while I think this rationale for posting is feasible, at this time I don’t think it is necessarily the case. As ubiquitous as they are, SNSs still have something of that new car smell for many users, who still get excited when they find an old friend or when someone posts a picture from back in the day. People are genuinely interested in the conversation and interaction, much more so than getting their 596 friends to notice them. While I hate the saying, “you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” it is true for many people. Then there are people like myself and several of my friends, who gauge the closer of our relationships by how deeply we can insult each other (it’s harmless fun, I swear!).

Regardless, I think I’ll be taking a closer look at my Live Feed over the next week to see if any patterns of postings jump out to support this idea.


Quantify your Twitter addiction! (aka yet another to waste time when you probably should be doing real work)

While I’ve been on Twitter for the last six months or so, I’ve only really come around in the past six weeks and realized that I actually do love this quirky little service. Last week I blogged about my coming to terms with the fact that I am addicted to Twitter — I leave a tab open nearly all day. I hit refresh every few minutes. It’s not like I have a lot of followers (12) or even follow a lot of people (18), but I am a complete sucker for the instantaneous information updates the site provides (assuming it is actually up and working).

Well now there’s a way to check out your addiction across time of day and day of the week. The Twitter Chart from Xefer asks for your Twitter user id and voila, charts generate showing you your posting history across month, day and hour. Pretty sweet, eh? Apparently I’ve had a few 3am tweets going on — that’s not a good sign! But since I’m becoming a drunk-blogging/drunk-tweeting aficionado as of late, I’m not too concerned.

Here’s a chart of my meager 109 tweets: the x-axis is time, the y-axis is day of the week.

Vitak\'s Tweet Map

[Thanks for the tip, Somewhat Frank!]

Damn you Twitter, now I’m hooked … You’re like crack. Maybe we can call it twack?

Back in November, I blogged about Twitter with a heavy degree of trepidation about the site. I almost gave up on it as utterly pointless, but decided to renew my tweeting in March and give the site a second chance. Well, now I can say that without a doubt, I am hooked on the sweet, sweet crack that is this most succinct of social networking sites.

I should have expected this. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Facebook status updates and change my GChat status all the time. I find that I often use these two services to either express my current emotion (e.g., Vitak is screaming expletives from the rooftops) or to share funny links (e.g., my favorite lolcats). With Twitter, however, I find myself feeling the need to share my daily activities with the world, and it’s often not information I would consider posting in my GChat or Facebook. These daily ruminations do contain the occasional gem (my personal favorite thus far is “I played too much Nintendo as a kid…The rain kept changing direction on my walk, and all I could think of was board 2.3 in Ninja Gaiden 2″), but they’re usually the dull and boring comments on my thesis and the like. Maybe this is because so few of my friends and/or colleagues are on the site. I only have 10 followers and I only follow 15 people.

So then the question becomes: if I become more popular, will I change the content of my postings on Twitter? Will I become one of those people who tweets every time I post a new blog and use the site as a way to promote myself? Or will the site turn into a sort of time-delayed instant messenger, where I’m interacting with a number of friends at the same time? A public IM? Sounds like a strange concept, wouldn’t you think?

We’ll see how the summer affects my tweeting. After all, in three days, I’ll be officially done with my master’s program and will have a bit more time on my hands. Maybe I can develop a massive following and just tweet all day long, constantly.

Wow, that would be totally lame.

You can follow me on twitter here.

Twitxr mashes up Twitter and Flickr; Vitak’s head subsequently explodes

I guess you could say I’m still new to this tech-heavy lifestyle I’ve thrown myself into over the last six months as I write my master’s thesis, but the seemingly nonstop, daily influx of new companies with ever-so-slight variations on the original is slowly driving me crazy. I wonder if I would have survived the tech bubble of the 90s, or if, in the end, I would have blown up my computer to get away from the insanity. Luckily, I was a naive little college student back then, without a care in the world past my next keg stand.

Now, however, keeping up on this stuff is part of my job and my education, so there will be no computer explosions in my house anytime soon (that, and my house is really old, so it’d probably burn down in under 30 seconds, which would totally suck). Don’t get me wrong, I’m fascinated with a lot of the new social networking sites launching every few milliseconds, but I have never particularly liked Twitter, and I don’t like posting my pictures for the whole world to see, so I haven’t yet caved to the massive powers of Flickr. So why in the world would I want them combined?

Well, that exacty what Twitxr has done my friends. Here we have one of the newest social networking site (it just launched this week), which is for all intensive purposes Twitter with pictures. Now, you can twit about photos you take on your cell phone, basically allowing people to follow your every last move as it happens — or at least shortly after it happens. Find some funny graffiti in a public bathroom? Send it on over! Amazed at how pretty your fancy, $175 entrée costs and want to show everyone that you’re a real spender? Post it up! Want to show the whole world how lame you are because you feel the need to share every minute of your day? Please, indulge us. We love it!

Ugh, sometimes this social connectivity and identity sharing starts to wear me down. It’s like we’ve all just given up on the hope of keeping any part of our lives private. Hold strong people, hold strong!

Google Maps/Twitter Mashup for Super Tuesday is actually pretty awesome

Everyone knows Google Maps, and I’ve blogged multiple times about Twitter, the insta-status social networking site. Well, these two normally unrelated sites have joined forces for Super Tuesday to let consumers see just what people from around the world are twitting on this most massive of primary/caucus/pick the next US president days. Check out the site here to watch new comments pop up every 10 seconds or so.


Geeks of the world unite, become so excited about Macworld that their quick little fingers shut down Twitter

I have previously mentioned my intrigue with the site Twitter. After about two months using it, I am still no closer to understanding its mass appeal among some of the dorkier techies out there. I especially don’t understand why so many people use it almost as a instant message chat room, where everyone can see what you’re talking about. I mean, phones do still exist people. And so do chat rooms, like through GMail, where NOT EVERYONE CAN WATCH YOUR CONVERSATION UNFOLD.

Anyway, I have given up trying to understand the appeal of Twittering. What really surprised me, however, was how all those dorkorific kids out there salivating over Macworld today and Steve Jobs’ keynote, actually brought Twitter to its knees briefly. Poor things, trying to find out if Jobs’ had chuckled or merely smiled after making some lame joke, they were instead greeted with this error message:


Poor babies. I’m sure they cried and hugged their laptops to their bony chests and screamed at god for being so totally unfair.

I’m sorry people, but I think we all need to take a step back from the the technology train that is bearing down on us at such an incredible pace. If you are really that upset about not knowing what is happening at Macworld the very second it happens, maybe you need to climb up the stairs out of your basement, put on some clothes other than your PJs and take a walk outside for maybe 10 minutes or so. That’s not asking too much of you. We’re all getting so caught up in technology these days that I think we’re forgetting where our real priorities are. And here’s a hint: they’re not related to the computer.

And that, my friends, is enough lecturing from my high horse for today. You can now resume you Twittering you weirdos.

[Thanks Techcrunch.]

UPDATE: Now, this is more of what I’m talking about:  Steve Jobs’  Key Note  as  a Drinking Game!

Twits twitter twins twice


Dear Twitter,

You are quite a mysterious SNS. I’m slightly confused by you. Your sole purpose is to accumulate the equivalent of Facebook statuses from all members, even though most have no connection whatsoever, and post them in a neverending list? Very interesting. I’m intrigued. Enough so that I decided to join your little site today in my continuing effort to master the world of social networking online. I have yet to see your true significance, little site, so you better work hard to impress me or I may have to drop you like a bad habit.