Blogging brought the world together. Twitter is pushing us apart.

istock_000004986387xsmallWhen I first started blogging, I was struck by how quickly and easily I discovered bloggers around the world who shared my interests and from who I could learn. My community of interest spanned the globe, including people like Neville Hobson (in Amsterdam and later the U.K.), Darren Barefoot (at that time on a one year sojourn in Malta, now in Victoria B.C.), Allan Jenkins (Copenhagen), Katie Paine (New England), Josh Hallett (Florida), Shel Israel (California), the other Shel, Shel Holtz (California), Jeremiah Owyang, Lorelle VanFossen (Pacific northwest) and even and Lee Hopkins (Australia). Blogging had enabled me to form a community with others who shared my interests – a community that transcended time zones and geography.

Over the past two years, Twitter has taken up an increasing amount of my intention. Its 140 character micro bursts of ideas, links, emotions and idle musings bring me into instant contact with the people in my community. I drop in and out of the flow several times a day.

But at the same time that Twitter has given me the ability to connect constantly and quickly wiht the people in my community, it also has led to a shrinking of that community. Yes, it transcends geography. I regularly tweet to people in other countries and in Europe. But at the same time, it has restricted my community to people within a band of time when we are all on the network live. In other words, I’ve lost sight of that part of the world in which our business days don’t overlap.

In effect, my world through the lense of Twitter has shrunk to encompass only those people who are online at the same time as me. So, I’ve lost sight of those people whose workdays and online times don’t overlap with mine. They are invisible to me and I too am invisible to them.

So, Twitter is a good news / bad news story for social networking and its ability to expose us to different points of view and draw us closer together. In a way, Twitter has narrowed my horizons while making my experience with the smaller community richer.

Have you experienced this “invisibility effect”, losing track of people you previously experienced regularly? if so, what are you doing about it?

  • Joe, I have definitely noticed this. Today, for example, I saw a rare (for me) live tweet from Lee Hopkins. Our time zones don’t normally overlap. What I’ve done to alleviate this is to subscribe to the RSS feeds of certain Twitterati in other time zones. This does not bring us together time-wise, but it makes it less likely that I’ll miss something important from someone I choose to follow.

  • That’s an excellent observation, Joe.

    I hadn’t thought of it until you mentioned it, but on reflection my blog reading is now driven primarily by twitter messages from other people, rather than by Google Reader as it used to be. Nowadays I head to Reader every couple of days, rather than multiple times per day.

    Much of this is due to an increased volume of good-quality reading material from my Twitter friends, but at the same time I see less and less material from people on the other side of the planet except when others re-tweet their content for them.

    Now that I’ve realized that, I’m going to make an effort to check my feeds more frequently.

  • Diane Chehab

    In my opinion, if you are not having just a long 2-way conversation–and that should not be what Twitter is about–there is no reason that you can only be in touch with Twitterers in your own time zone. I scroll through the past hours’ tweets to see if there is something that attracts my attention: a link, a comment. It could very well be from a Twitterer in Europe (I am on the East Coast of the USA), or from my own neck of the woods. I only am annoyed when one person hogs the “bandwidth” with a flurry of consecutive tweets and takes up a whole screen page!

  • I run 2 twitter accounts. I don’t recommend this to anyone, but part of the reason is the timezone factor.

    I twitter real-time here in Ottawa where @AskAroundOttawa is growing into a fun mini-recommendation network for the city. I use the other account to connect with people outside Ottawa, mostly in the UK.

    Having the 2 different streams has showed me both the strengths and limitations of twitter. It’s a great ‘local’ platform, and I think ‘local’ can also mean a single industry/stakeholder group. However, it requires much more thought and work to use twitter meaningfully across time and geographic distance.

    Have never been a huge blogger, but now I find myself wanting to blog more. Partly to expand beyond 140chars but also because it has better reach; one more tool for my communication tool bag.


  • A.D.D in full effect

    i have to say that i disagree. like wendy above i actually find that i have more content coming my way and most of that is because i use tweetdeck. it makes it very simple to group people by interests/locations/whatever and scroll back through time to see what’s been said. plus retweets from my more cerebral friends mean that i see postings/blogs that i’d never otherwise come across.

    just my 2 cents.

  • I actually have experienced the opposite situation through the use of Twitter. It has allowed me to connect, learn from and explore ideas with friends and colleagues from around the world. It’s created a global information resource and network for me. I don’t feel as though I have to “be online” at the very same time although many of us are since some of us Twitter even in our sleep I think.

  • I’m using TweetDeck to solve this very problem… I’ve made a “group” containing people I especially want to follow who live more than 8 hours away. Works like a charm.

  • Well, Joseph, they say that an increasingly important part of the (near) future web will be the local web. We’re starting to see the early stages of this through location-based services via the mobile web.

    It’s kind of fitting, then, that Twitter enhances the local experience, at least to the extent that if enhances that part of your personal network in the same time zone.