Cyberspace is not as simple as it appears
WHEN you come to think of it, the idea of Twitter is pretty simple, 140 characters of short and repetitive burst of ideas generated by millions of people. But don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the platform, It is as complicated as life itself.
It is full of social and psychological behaviors that tell a lot about us as human beings, it represents us in the way we are, true and without frills; at times we are social butterflies, looking for connections, striving for groups, searching for tribes of people thinking and acting like us, and sometimes, self-centered individuals, having no doubts that the whole world, with all the “followers,” is revolving around us.
I have been reminded of such different phenomena on Twitter in the past few days. First, there is the World Cup, the biggest sports event on the planet. Expectedly, it will be consuming a huge portion of your timeline in these few weeks. With each team, with each game, with each goal, people are streaming their feelings, observations and comments. They cheer for the winner, or make fun of it. They attack the loser, or sympathize with it. They are simply fans of the game, looking for others sharing their passion. That is one representation of our behavior on Twitter, finding groups, tribes of people sharing our interests.
On the other hand, I was a bit surprised by the non-fans’ behavior. They were criticizing the constant tweets about the games, tweeting back their annoyance, and keep reminding everyone that the world is full of more important issues other than football! It is a free world, I know, but for me, that is a representation of the other behavior we have on the platform; the self-indulgence, thinking that what we like, and what we love, should be the only thing out there. If it does not interest me, it should not interest anybody else!
Away from sports, there is the ongoing situation in Iraq. Again Twitter proves itself as an important source of news and live feeds (the Iraqi government decided to stop access to social media networks like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube in few days after the events started to unfold and escalate), and again it proves itself as a platform bringing our deep and sometimes dark, personalities.
With the polarization and tangled threads of religion, history and politics at play in this part of the world, people found on Twitter a channel to cheer for and defend their own views. Some took the analytical approach trying to make sense of the situation; others decided to turn into despots attacking anyone who is not believing in or following their only version of the truth.
It is the dilemma of technology and some of its applications, sometimes it appears as it is bringing people together, bridging the gap between their differences and sometimes it is where you find and realize that we did not change that much, we carry our own misfortunes and fears with us from the real world into the virtual one.