Daily Bulletin


Daily Bulletin

News

  • Written by Axel Bruns, Professor, Creative Industries, Queensland University of Technology

As a social media platform, Twitter does not have the most glowing reputation. If you just rely on what you hear about it, you might think Twitter is no more than a hotbed for raging politics and viral campaign hashtags. But is that all there is?

The news media’s intense focus on political strife is misleading. In our new research, we studied Twitter from a different angle, and found it has important social functions as well.

This matters. As calls for social media regulation grow, it’s critical we see Twitter and other platforms in all their facets to make sure any possible new legislation affecting the social media platform doesn’t cause collateral damage in other areas.

Read more: Twitter is right to have special rules for Donald Trump – it's recognising that not all tweets are equal

In our study, we developed the term “phatic sharing” to describe Twitter activity that serves such a social function.

It’s remarkable that the phatic practices from the early days of the platform still persist after more than a decade, and it should give us hope that Twitter and other social media platforms may not be lost entirely to the political partisans and propagandists.

It’s a symptom of the biases in news coverage as well as in much scholarly research that such social practices on the platform are often overlooked, and that we focus instead mainly on high politics.

Twitter in a day

Rather than looking only for the hashtags and accounts we knew about already, our research took a snapshot of all Australian Twitter activity on an ordinary day in 2017, analysing 1.3 million tweets.

This helped us find user practices often overlooked by researchers and journalists, precisely because they don’t seek the limelight and don’t attach to visible hashtags and viral memes.

We found that hashtags like #auspol constitute a minority practice: more than three-quarters of all Australian tweets that day did not contain any hashtag. This means that any research that only focuses on hashtags like #auspol fails to capture the full range of Twitter activity.

Twitter isn’t just for political hashtag warriors. Many still use the social network to just hang out Interaction network between Twitter accounts in the Australian Twittersphere, 22 March 2017. Axel Bruns & Brenda Moon / QUT Digital Media Research Centre

The breadth of topics over the course of the day becomes clearer from a network visualisation of interaction patterns among Twitter users, shown above.

Yes, there’s a solid cluster of users talking about domestic and international politics. But similarly, there are many other groups in the network that stay well away from such topics and talk about what’s important to their own lives.

Shooting the breeze

Of the distinct groups of accounts we identified through our network analysis, the most numerous and most active over a day are the phatic sharers – a cluster of accounts using Twitter in a completely different way from the political hashtag warriors.

Read more: The urgent need for media literacy in an age of annihilation

There is no clear thematic focus to what these accounts do. Roughly half their tweets are retweets, contain URLs, or both, and a quarter are original tweets that neither @mention or retweet anyone else. Only about 5% of their tweets are hashtagged.

So, we interpret this group as using Twitter essentially as a place to hang out and shoot the breeze.

Twitter isn’t just for political hashtag warriors. Many still use the social network to just hang out Donald Trump’s prolific tweeting has helped boost Twitter’s image as being full of political strife. Shutterstock

They’re not interested in a wider reach for their tweets (otherwise they’d use hashtags). They mainly share personal updates and observations, or they retweet the things they encounter as they hang out on Twitter.

In other words, they’re using Twitter as it was originally intended, not as what it has become in the years since the social media platform launched.

Not just ‘pointless babble’

Some might see such practices as a waste of time. A 2009 report on how people used Twitter at the time described similar activities as “pointless babble”.

Read more: What's not to like? Instagram's trial to hide the number of 'likes' could save users' self-esteem

But to dismiss what we see here so glibly would be a mistake. For the users involved, phatic sharing can be important for personal expression and as a tool to maintain social ties.

This means they’re posting updates, sharing links, and retweeting other people’s posts not because they contain breaking news or engage with national and international events, but because this continuous communicative presence on the platform has a social – phatic – function. This is similar to the small talk we might engage in at work, with friends, or at social events.

It doesn’t matter so much what’s said, but that it is said at all. In offline reality, speaking and interacting maintains our place in the social network, rather than becoming just a silent bystander.

The same, it seems, applies on Twitter. For phatic sharers, simply following the tweets of others is not enough.

And that is perhaps the central point here: as a practice, phatic sharing reclaims Twitter as a truly social network, rather than simply as a source of breaking news or a place for public debate between politicians, journalists, and activists.

Read more: Most adults have never heard of TikTok. That's by design

So next time we’re offended by Donald Trump’s latest Twitter outbursts, or frustrated by the predictably partisan battles in domestic political tweeting, why not just unfollow those accounts and find some more interesting people to connect with?

You’ll need to look beyond the trending hashtags (and in fact, beyond hashtags altogether) to find them, though.

Authors: Axel Bruns, Professor, Creative Industries, Queensland University of Technology

Read more http://theconversation.com/twitter-isnt-just-for-political-hashtag-warriors-many-still-use-the-social-network-to-just-hang-out-120505

Writers Wanted

Coronavirus disrupted my kid's first year of school. Will that set them back?

arrow_forward

What are manufactured home estates and why are they so problematic for retirees?

arrow_forward

Things to Ask To Your Removalists

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Scott Morrison: the right man at the right time

Australia is not at war with another nation or ideology in August 2020 but the nation is in conflict. There are serious threats from China and there are many challenges flowing from the pandemic tha...

Greg Rogers - avatar Greg Rogers

Prime Minister National Cabinet Statement

The National Cabinet met today to discuss Australia’s COVID-19 response, the Victoria outbreak, easing restrictions, helping Australians prepare to go back to work in a COVID-safe environment an...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Ten tips for landing a freelance transcription job

Transcription jobs are known to be popular in the field of freelancing. They offer fantastic job opportunities to a lot of people, but there are some scammers who wait to cheat the freelancers. ...

News Company - avatar News Company

How To Remove Rubbish More Effectively

It can be a big task to remove household rubbish. The hardest part is finding the best way to get rid of your junk. It can be very overwhelming to know exactly where to start with so many option...

News Company - avatar News Company

4 Tips To Pass Skills Certifications Tests

Developing the right set of skills is valuable not only to your career, but for life in general. You can get certified in these skills through obtaining a license. Without a certified license, y...

News Company - avatar News Company



News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion