When a certain type of person talks about “social media,” I tend to get my guard up about “old man-ism,” the tendency of older folks to wax poetic about the days of rotary phones, calling cards, and chance meetings on the street. This makes me of two minds about West Brom manager Steve Clarke’s remarks on Twitter in the wake of the Peter Odemwingie’s latest string of inappropriate Tweets.
Let’s start with the sensible. Clarke began:
“Everyone has to be open-minded about Twitter, although it’s not a concept I’m comfortable with. I don’t understand the attraction of faceless media.
“I try to sort things out face-to-face with people and I can understand the tone of questions better when they come from someone in the same room.”
This is actually a very apt criticism of the medium. On Twitter tone is lost, inflection is lost, and the difference between intent and expression yawns fairly wide. Sometimes something as little as a missing exclamation mark can wreak havoc in friendly relations. Face-to-face chats are always better, followed by phone talks, then…what? Text I guess.
Now the not-so-sensible:
“Social media, including emailing, is impersonal but I have to try to understand it better.
“A lot of people obviously love it. I’ve got kids who use it.”
Well, that’s a little more:
Email as social media? Now you’re just acting the grandpa. Moreover, there is nothing inherently impersonal about Twitter or Facebook. The problem often is social media sites allow users to get way too personal, which means a player like Odemwingie will be more inclined to say hurtful, damaging things he would not say in personal company. And there is no “understanding” involved here. If someone says something shitty on the Internet, it’s still shitty in real life.
Finally, the elderly do, in fact, use Twitter too. As do middle aged people. And yes, children too.