Vanity Twitter

If follower numbers were an index of wisdom or virtue, Twitter would produce some very strange results. I’m not sure why some people are so anxious to obtain ‘followers’. If anyone tweets a request that I should follow them, I usually ignore it on the grounds that anyone so blatantly clamouring for attention is more likely to be a ‘broadcaster’ than a ‘dialoguer’. In any case, I don’t follow as many people as currently follow me for the simple reason that it would be a physical impossibility. I try to follow people with different backgrounds, interests and opinions from my own, as well as those who are particularly knowledgeable and engaging on topics that interest me. So what is vanity Twitter, and why am I unenthusiastic about it?

Vanity Twitter is all about me, my interests, and my business (frequently, especially my business). The vain tweeter will read everything he/she can about how to build follower numbers and will ruthlessly exploit every known technique for doing so (often dreamed up by other like-minded tweeters). In addition, the vain tweeter is a master of the art(?) of the self-promotional tweet and subjects us to a never-ending stream of unwanted information about his/her wonderful achievements, ‘motivational quotes’ and so on. Dialogue, there is not. Unfortunately, religion is not exempt from this kind of vanity Twitter, although it is usually given a gloss of gratitude for graces received.  At base, however, it is as frothy and empty as any other kind of vanity Twitter, and because it does not really engage with other people*, I wonder whether it can achieve anything of substance.

Are you a vain tweeter, or do you try to use Twitter to engage with others? What have you learned from using Twitter? Have you any tips to share? Do you think religion is a difficult subject to explore on Twitter? Over to you.

• I think the @pontifex account does Twitter rather well, despite what I say above. The pope cannot engage with others on Twitter as you and I can because of the sheer numbers involved.




11 thoughts on “Vanity Twitter”

  1. Absolutely agree. I have a love-hate relationship with Twitter. I learn so much useful stuff from there, but also the sheer pointless or stupid things that people tweet about topics that I’m not interested in at all just irritate me.

  2. I started using Twitter because a friend who works at Church House explained to me that Twitter was a useful adjunct to running a blog and that every time I posted something on the blog I should tweet that I’d done so.

    So that’s what I do; and it seems to have been good advice. A lot of people who don’t want to subscribe to a blog will dip into it if they see something on Twitter that looks as if it might be interesting – as the WordPress statistics for the blog would appear to confirm.

    But so far as I’m concerned, that’s it. Though I very occasionally reply to tweets by other people, I don’t write what you might call “primary tweets” except to publicise the latest post on the blog. And I can’t see why anyone would be remotely interested if I were to do so. As I’ve said before, why should anyone be remotely interested in what I had for breakfast or what I think of the latest exhibition at the National Gallery?

    But, of course, blogging is itself can be an exercise in vanity – at least potentially. I very much hope that our own blog serves a worthwhile purpose in keeping people who are interested in law & religion informed about what is going on in the field. And we try as hard as we possibly can to be academic rather than tendentious. But, inevitably, the very act of writing a blog involves an element of self-advertisement: whether or not that self-advertisement is acceptable is – I guess – partly a question of motive.

  3. I think Twitter is still evolving, and people’s reasons for using it are almost as diverse as the people themselves. For some it’s part of a ‘social media strategy’, which may be in pursuit of commercial or other objectives for an organisation, which might be a business or a charity. For them it’s all about the audience, they want that to be both numerous and the most appropriate economic or social profile. For individuals like me, it’s all about tapping into a reach stream of knowledge and thought that takes me outside what would otherwise be my everyday experience. Those two worlds (and many others no doubt) coexisting on the same platform is bound to cause some discomfort, but we can control things very much by who we choose to follow (ignoring the increasing number of promoted tweets, which we probably have to just accept if Twitter is to have a workable economic model that lets the likes of me use it for free). I use two separate accounts, one for my interest in Church and Christianity, and one related to my work as an accountant. It’s amazing how focused you can make a twitter feed. I don’t think anyone I follow in my churchy feed uses twitter in a self obsessive or self-promotional way, other than of course promoting their blog or publication, which I’m happy for them to do because I want to know what they are saying. On the other hand my work related feed is almost all promotion of some sort, although bodies like HMRC do use it very well do give information.

    Many people who don’t use Twitter still have no idea what it can offer. I spoke a little while ago to a lovely local vicar, who when I mentioned Twitter said she didn’t use it as if she wants to speak to someone she just phones them! Aside from not really understanding how it works, she assumed it was a medium full of self interest and self promotion that has no interest for her. I think she was missing out!

  4. Odd to read ‘broadcast’ with a negative connotation. I still attach the sowing of seed to broadcast and so see it as a real Gospel word.

  5. Thank you. Some really good points being made here. I think most of you know that I’m a Twitter enthusiast myself as I see it as a way of engaging with people who’d never come to the monastery, but I’m interested in YOUR views.

  6. I very seldom tweet for myself. I read what others say and occasionally reply or retweet. I do post opinions on Facebook but there I have chosen my friends carefully

  7. Interesting. There is no right or wrong way to use Twitter, Facebook or to blog. These media are what you choose to make of them, and, presumably, people who use them too annoyingly will soon be unfollowed en masse.

    It is as valid to use Twitter to disseminate ideas, or to bounce ideas into the ether as to “engage” people, which, quite possibly, cannot be done life-or thought-changingly in 140 character tweets. 🙂

  8. I joined Twitter, but did not find it of interest – if you like it, I must have missed the point, I obviously need to go back and pay more attention.

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