Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Why Twitter Is Not Like High School

I ran across a post a few weeks ago called, "Why twitter is like high school." I didn't mark the post, so my apologies since I can't remember the site where I read it.

I do remember shaking my head and disagreeing with the author by the time I got to her second sentence. Her feeling was that twitter was made up of the cool and the uncools; she added that she felt excluded every time she logged onto twitter. She complained of her tweets being ignored and that other tweeters passed their clever word batons back and forth with their BFF's, while she just sat and eeked out -- nothing. She ended her post by saying that twitter took her right back to high school.

I left a one sentence comment, "with one big difference, we're not in high school anymore."

In high school, you have to see the people that you feel look down on you, or pass you in the halls as if you don't exist.  This is not the case on twitter: you don't have to see anyone you don't want to: there is the lovely unfollow/block button. If someone really upsets you, or gets your goat up because they refuse to acknowledge you, you can just one click unfollow them. Gone from your online life.

How satisfying would having that option have been back in high school, when Big Booby Liz bewitched and stole your Senior Class boyfriend away?  On twitter, you can block and unfollow Big Booby Liz: outta sight, outta mind, outta your life.

Score one for twitter.

Next, if you've been killing yourself to get to know someone and you're but a dust mote in their twitter stream, stop and think about why you follow them. There is a triad of local tweeters I follow: these three won't engage with me for nothin'... not even if I held their adorable pug over hot bubbling lava would they respond to a tweet of mine. But their tweets are gold to me: they know about everything going on within 200 miles of where I live. I'll keep following them; I know no one is obligated to interact with anyone on twitter. But, if following someone and seeing each of their tweets is like a poison dipped dagger slammed right in the center of your heart, then unfollow. Unfollow, take a deep breath, allow time for your broken twitter heart to heal, then latch on to another superstar that floats your boat. Couldn't do that in high school.

High School: 0 Twitter: two.

Twitter is the great equalizer. You have access to people like Alec Baldwin, Ellen Barkin, Kim Kardashian, Kelly Ripa. If they're on twitter, you can follow them. There's no way that you could be privy to superstars like that in high school.

Three and O.

The biggest difference between high school and twitter, is that WE ARE NO LONGER IN HIGH SCHOOL. We no longer have to be that overly sensitive, self conscious, begging to be liked little budding teen. We are grown people, a lot of us with families of our own. If someone ignores us, hasn't followed back, doesn't respond to our tweets, it's not life and death at this stage. Or, at least, it shouldn't be. Whereas at one time there may have been nothing more important than belonging and being accepted into a certain group, this shouldn't be the case in our lives anymore.

Our families are the most important now. Our health, our well being, our livelihood: these are the things that matter now.

High school may have been center stage and the be all to us once, but no more. Twitter is not high school: it is a fun tool, a business tool and platform for many, a way to connect for the majority of us on it. Connections take time. We can't instantly jump in and be part of a group, no matter how hard we wish it.

If seeing action on twitter that doesn't include you, or if seeing a certain someone on twitter causes you duress, if the sight of a particular avatar sends you reaching for the Xanax, then think about the unfollow. If you say someone makes you feel left out, or uncool, or not part of their group, think again about what following them does to you. If it batters your ego and sends you back to high school thought patterns, perhaps 'tis best you don't see them. You don't have to.

You couldn't do that in high school.

If you've been feeling that twitter is like high school, I hope you try and see it differently. I also hope you don't choose to continue with the mindset you used 10, 20, 30 years ago when you were in high school; the mindset of seeing mountains when they're molehills. You're an adult now; you can pick and choose who you surround yourself with. On twitter, it's totally your choice -- you design your tweeting world, and the people in it. In high school, you have no choice.

It's only 140 characters ... it's only twitter.

It's not like it's high school or something.




  1. AMEN!!

    I totally love Twitter, and have never thought of it as high school. To me, it's just a HUGE community of people, each wanting to reach out, be heard and make friends along the way. And you're right, if someone doesn't sit right with you, just unfollow, ignore, block. No one but you will be the wiser.

    Thanks for highlighting the best parts of Twitter!

  2. Yes, yes! Also I have found that when I'm feeling left out? It's coming from ME, because I am not joining in. There are no invites in Twitter, you just have to insert yourself into a conversation and if you have something interesting or funny to say, you will become a part of it.

    Also, if you're feeling "left out", do a self-check - are you being a generous member of the Twitter community and regularly re-tweeting the important content of others? That's part of how you connect yourself, too.

    And then there are these amazing communities that can rise up out of specific hashtags - like the recent #YouMightBeAnAutismParentIf that has taken off like wildfire. I have met so many more wonderful autism parents on Twitter in the last 2 weeks, it is awesome. And if I like what someone has said, I will follow them - whether they have 48 followers or 48,000.

    So no, for me it's not like high school at all.

  3. Thank God someone is addressing this crap where adults...grown women...doubt themselves to the point of blaming other people for their personality flaws. I'm so sick of people complaining about being left out of this or that...get over yourself!

    That being said, I'm not a tweeter b/c I just don't get it (or I'm afraid I'll get addicted worse than I have with Pinterest)!

  4. I love twitter, and am addicted. So many people, within seconds.

    Not everything is always going to be all good.

    There's bad with good.

    In everything.

    But, 99 percent of twitter is all good to me.

  5. That unfollow button is like gold.

    Something else I've noticed that a lot of times, the people who complain that someone doesn't talk to them- well, tehy haven't tried talking to that person first. Or they do, but all they do is @them and say LOL! What is that person expected to say back to that?

    The thing I like about twitter is that it is the one place where it's okay to just jump right into someone else's conversation.

  6. Oh good lord. Can we all be adults here? Twitter is a form of social media, so if it makes you feel anti-social and left out, perhaps you should step back and live life out loud instead of online for awhile, reassess your stress priorities and join the party after your break. In other words, amen, sister friend.

    The great thing about social media is you have the choice to click away. If you're not finding what you want in one place, you can move on to another. In high school, you had no choice and were forced to interact with the divas and dorks that plagued your existence.

    I admit I fall prey to feeling left out at times, but then I remember it's not a competition. It's simply a way to connect. The end.

  7. Oh, hear hear. When I was first on the twitter, I had my feelings hurt a little. I just wanted to be liked. Then I realized that I was liked, by plenty of people, and that cozying up to "popular" people and trying to seek their approval? Exposed a side of me that made me feel icky. I didn't even do that when I was in high school.

    I unfollowed some people, and stopped trying with others, but after a while I kind of changed my attitude again. Now I comment or reply when I feel like it and not in hopes of getting noticed. If I have something to say, I say it, and I just don't expect anything in return. Because that's the kind of me I want to be.

  8. The (blank) is like high school analogies are as played out as Big Boobie Liz's sneaky ways.

  9. And this is why lists are gold to me. The right people when I need them :-)

  10. I am on twitter though I've never gotten that into it. I've tried. Just not my thang, I guess.

    But I certainly never thought it was anyone else's fault. That's just nuts...and kinda whiny. Oh how I wished I could have unfollowed people in high school!

  11. Twitter is the high school I wish I went to. The people are cool, welcoming, support, pass notes in class with hearts over the i's and are overall awesome.

    And the fight on the quad everyday between Twitter and Facebook? Facebook gets its ass kicked daily.

  12. People need to realize trier may not be for everyone. You said it perfectly!

  13. Sorry on my phone commenting. I meant twitter, not trier

  14. I'm not a huge Twitter fan. I was when I used it for progressive politics but since I shifted into personal and blogging I'm not as enamoured but I'm not sure why. It's sometimes like high school but that's not what bothers me. Have you read the 'twitter is like a cocktail party' post that was popular for awhile? I thought maybe that's the problem because I hate small talk. I don't know what I've done to change Twitter for myself but I'd like to feel as you do again. Xoxo

  15. Well, I'm certainly down with this post!!! The whole high school thing always drives me nuts because everything in life is cliquey; the only thing that changes is how we react to it.

    If you're always feeling left out, perhaps the problem is you.


  16. i am actually not a big fan of twitter...which is why sometimes i can go days without updating...but then have a flurry of activity...another commentor hit it on hte head with you have to interject yourself into conversations...and that is a lot like HS to me...smiles.

  17. 'Big Booby Liz', *Snort*..I still don't twitter because I think it would be dangerous in my hands...if anyone followed me...would they? Oh no, what if no one followed me...? ; )

  18. I think the way you relate to Twitter is likely the way you relate in "real life." The original poster you mention may feel just as high-schoolish at work, in the PTA, at church, etc. I suppose some people never really exit the please like me phase. But at the same time, I'm not dissing wanting to be liked. I want people to like me. I want my neighbors, my co-workers, people on Twitter with 647,000 followers to follow me back. But feeling slighted b/c she doesn't? Nope. Feeling unliked b/c I tweet a response that I think is word magic and get...nothing? Eh. I notice. But I don't cry. If it was truly hurtful, the lack of response/recognition, I'd unfollow. But I guess a testament to how serious I take Twitter: I've never unfollowed anyone (although I've noticed my followers drop/dip/dive and I sometimes wonder what'd I do/say, but still I just shrug) b/c it's just not that serious. I left high school in high school with all its bigger boobed Lizzes. Heifers.

  19. I don't know where I stand on this. Because in High School, I Followed tons of people. Sure, they didn't know I was Following them but were sure surprised when I'd pop up out of nowhere to say "Hi". And luckily for me, they were too scared for their lives to "unfriend" me.
    I haven't been on Twitter in weeks. I still don't "get it". And I don't think I ever will. m.

  20. I love twitter, for the ease and instantness of it.

    You really don't have to commit...just jump in, swim for awhile, jump out.

    It's perfect for me, and the good outweighs any bad.

  21. I love this. & it helps remind me of why I love twitter when I'm feeling witty and funny and a little bit snarky. but when I'm having a rough day, I reach for my blanket and a phone call to my mom or texts and emaail with people I know (even if I "met" them on twitter) personally.
    It's just about finding how it works for you, finding what makes you feel good and letting the rest go, without guilt or negative feelings.

  22. Enjoyed that!
    I agree - it's way better than high school - like, totally, for sure, pshh-shaa!
    If anything, Feckbook is like high school and I detest it. If it wasn't for the fact that I get distant relative updates through it, I'd delete my account.

  23. I am absolutely the WORST Twitterer. I hardly check my account, not a lot of my stuff looks very awesome, and it just seems "meh" on Twitter. I don't get how everybody else's world can look so shiny and amazing on Twitter, but mine looks like, "Seriously... do you think people want to read about that?!" SO I periodically check it, but I mainly stick to FB, where I can roll my eyes, laugh at stupid pictures, and be all "Oh no she din-INT!" Facebook massages my ego. :)

  24. I felt like I did back in high school, in the beginning. But you know what? You can change that. You don't have to sit on the sidelines watching everyone else interact. You want to talk to people? Then send them a tweet! Engage people in conversation. Not everyone will respond. But those who do? Will become good friends.

    Better friends than any of those bitches I knew back in high school.

  25. Well said. I wonder if the person who originally wrote the post is still young without a well-formed support group. That could be why ...

  26. This makes a lot of sense to me. And that unfollow button is indeed magical.

  27. I'm guilty of not engaging with everyone. I only reply to questions. If I get 15 comments and 3 are questions, I'll only reply to the questions. Unless you want to read a timeline of mine that says, I KNOW! RIGHT ON! YOU'RE THE BEST! Boring.

    I read someone's timeline before I follow them and if their only tweets are what I wrote above, I don't follow back.

    You want people to interact?? Be interesting! (don't talk about baby poop, napping, coffee or the dreaded beer me slogan)

  28. This is why I've always maintained that some people don't mature past high school - most people, in fact. Clearly the author of the original piece is still carrying around a lot of baggage that she needs to put away in order to get on with life.

  29. I think of Twitter as the anti-High School. You've captured the reasons for this perfectly. And, hello, I never would've met YOU in high school unless there was some trans-border pen pal situation, so Twitter wins.

  30. Wait a minute.

    You unfollowed Charlie Sheen?

  31. I'm with Julie, you unfollowed Charlie Sheen?
    AND you suggested to follow Kim Kardashian?
    I'm very very worried about you Empress!
    Do we need to do an Intervention?

  32. i'm big booby liz. except, i didn't steal your senior boyfriend. i'd rather steal you. (and i mean that in the least lesbian-y way possible)

  33. This was awesome! Great points, but I admit I felt like it was high school when I first got on. But I found my friends and I stick with them. Anyone is welcome to join my circle, but like you said, if someone is rude or whatever, the unfollow button is easy!

  34. I completely agree! Twitter is great, but nothing like high school! I find that most folks on twitter are lovely and fun to talk to. Since I have no place in my life, my blog or my social media for ugliness, I'm more than happy to remove it with the click of a button!

  35. I've heard, from people close to me, that Twitter was too "cliquish," and I still don't get it.

    I don't know, maybe I'm one of the "cool kids" on Twitter, and I just don't understand what it's not like to be as awesome as I am.

    That was difficult to type with a straight face.

    Twitter gives you back what you put into it, just like blogging. If you show up only once in a while, it's going to be difficult to get followers -- I mean, people want to engage, but you have to give them a method to do so.

    Then, there's the "why won't this person follow me?" question, which drives me bonkers -- people will follow you when they chose to do so. Asking someone out doesn't mean that they have to go out with you, even if they find you nice. Same goes for twitter (I kind of like the idea of going on a date with each follower of mine, by the way).

    Going to its roots, Twitter is a micro-blogging platform . . . the number one question I get at is how I get so many commenters (mind you, I get between 20 & 25 comments for a well-received post). The reason I have any following at all is because I seek out the blogging voices that I relate to, and I read them . . . I engage with them - and sometimes, those same people work their way back to me. Sometimes, someone who captivates me finds their way to me . . . but that's far more rare.

    You get what you put into it -- people who think they should just be loved & adored for being witty & hilarious & not knowing the difference between "your & you're," well, they'll only ever been seen if they interact with others.

  36. As usual, you hit the nail on the head. The power of the unfollow button is intoxicating. If only there was such a tool for real life and we could excommunicate people we find irritating.

    I think John is right, you get what you put in and if you're not tweeting frequently then you're not giving people the opportunity to interact with you.

  37. You make some good points, but I think there are some ways where Twitter is a LOT like high school. Namely, there is always someone who has absolutely no sense of irony in whining about why they aren't popular.

  38. I'm still surprised anyone follows me at all. If I try to engage & get ignored, I unfollow. I try to respond to every @ because I don't want to be rude but I don't engage with everyone all the time. It's just not feasible. I like twitter because I can come & go as I please. Someone will be there.

    My only current quandary is that I want to unfollow someone who complains or tweets quotes all the time but I don't want to cause hurt feelings. So very unlike me. ;-)

  39. I completely agree with you and, not to get all sappy, but I think twitter has cured me of some of the bitter feelings I had towards those high school girls. Twitter has helped me meet so many amazing, supportive women and before talking to all of you there I was pretty sure that most women were unkind and judgemental.

  40. Loved, loved, loved this post. Especially where you said: You're an adult now; you can pick and choose who you surround yourself with.

    So very true. So many of us DO tend to still make a "mountain out of a molehill" all too often. When I find myself doing this (and lord knows I still do sometimes!) I make myself sit back and re-prioritize. Life's too short to worry about high school stuff, right?

  41. And like anything else worth investing in--it takes TIME.

    You have to build rapport, build a following, and build some perspective beyond your own ego.

  42. This post really needs to be syndicated (if it's not already). Seriously. More people NEED to READ this. It could save a lot of unnecessary pain and heartaches.

    I admit that while my feelings for Twitter are neither here nor there--love it some times, hate it the next, etc--reading this post opened my eyes to not only viewing Twitter, but just about everything else, in a more positive light. I can't agree with you more on the points you've listed in this post, and it takes maturity and wisdom to be able to tackle this subject (or any other subject) in the manner that you've done. I guess that's why you are the Empress (as opposed to my Sweaty who sweats away. lol).

    I understand how some people could get emotional over Twitter, but again, what you said--focusing on the bonuses and if all else fails, hey, just click unfollow--was spot on. We all need to be reminded that a LOT of things are NOT high school.

    Really love this post.

  43. Love this. Unlike FB Twitter caps updates and that's what I love about it. It's quick and easy and I don't have to give it a lot of thought.
    Now I'm going to tweet your post. :)

  44. Aww, thanks, you guys.

    You are all so genuine and kind hearted.

    Not everyone is like that, you know.

    Thank you.

  45. You write about big boobs a lot.

  46. Absolutely. I can't let Twitter ruin my day if someone I really like doesn't respond to a Tweet or follow me back. It's always what we make of it and there's no reason to take any of it so personally, IMO. Anyway, you raise some very valid points here. Very well done, as always :)

  47. i just heard something disturbing about twitter, that the govt was going to house every single public tweet somewhere. this scares me, because why would they care? now i will probably even tweet less than i already do... (although i will still read others..)

  48. Thankfully, I've never expected to be cool in any way...and Twitter just reinforces that!

    ;-) A.



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