How Twitter has Changed

May 3, 2014

Retro twitterOn a recent Stanford MedX Google Hangout I was asked how Twitter had changed since I began using it in 2008.

Initially it was relatively private and consisted of a patchwork of organic microconversations for those who chose to sign on.  It seemed to be more conversation than curation and sharing.  It felt edgy and raw in terms of subject matter.  The only people watching were the few who were participating.

Personally, I had few inhibitions with regard to what I shared.  I had never experienced public dialog in a near-synchronous way and the whole thing was fascinating.  It seems that I had to get my hands around it before I could understand what could be done with it.

At the time I had little understanding of social platforms as public arenas.  In fact, I had never considered the implications of participation.  I didn’t know there were any.  In fact, I didn’t think I was participating in anything.  Professionalism, permanence and the potential scale of off-colored remarks had never been raised as concerns since public dialog was something few physicians did.

Somewhere before 2010 everybody started looking and Twitter became public.   Then we started looking and acting like we were in public.  For me that’s when Twitter moved from a small, contained group of physician and patient friends to a publication tool.  We all diverged and began to use it in different and unique ways.

My personal evolution with Twitter has been just like my evolution with every other tool of public communication over the past eight years.  I start using it one way, then end up using it another way.

If you’ve been at it a little while, how have you seen Twitter change?

Image via the Moma agency.


Meredith Gould (@meredithgould) May 3, 2014 at 1:14 pm

Like you have, since 2008, I’ve seen Twitterati move from curation and conversation (engagement) to what often comes across as SPAM — links to stuff without teaser copy to explain why the content might be useful; beyond shameless self-promotion (not by me, of course), etc. On the upside, I’ve also seen a surge in valuable tweetchats. The increased use of attached images is also a plus, especially for visual learners.

Lately I’m starting to see a slight return to engagement. Why? My best guesses: 1) long-timers (like us?) are purposefully using it that way again; and 2) newer users are discovering the value of real-time engagement. My hope, anyway!

Bunny Ellerin May 3, 2014 at 6:27 pm

Basically I just don’t have fun on Twitter anymore. In the old days it was much more interesting to me that I could meet smart people like you who had real things to say and contribute. I’m guilty now, too. I’m much more circumspect about what I write and share a lot of articles vs. share my POV. Twitter used to be a place where I could avoid the trite that is so much of daily life. It has lost its luster.

Susannah Fox May 4, 2014 at 2:50 pm

I joined in Dec. 08 after witnessing how my earlier-adopter friends and colleagues were able to expand one tiny meeting into a global conversation. We came up with the name for David Hale’s Pillbox program that day, thanks to contributions to the brainstorming session via Twitter.

My rubric from the start was to limit what I said on Twitter to what I’d say as a guest on a call-in radio show (my favorite media format): professional, but friendly, and personal in a we-just-met way, if that makes sense. Maybe that’s a framing I live with thanks to the media training I’ve been through — as a clinician that may not have been part of your training so it didn’t feel natural when that frame was placed on your experience.

The good news is that, just as I did from the start, I still meet people I would love to spend more time with — at which point we hopefully read each other’s blogs, maybe meet in real life at a conference, etc. Twitter is a jumping-off point for me, a place to hang out and get ideas about a wide range of topics, from a wide range of people. It’s still my desert-island platform.

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