Grow Up, Twitter!

I love social media. Like many I use it for all sorts of things, from keeping in touch with friends and family, to posting photos of my latest holiday, to staying up to date with the latest trends in education. I have a Facebook Page – Chris Mayoh Education Consultancy – to which I admittedly pay significantly less attention than I might, and a Twitter profile as my main social networks for ‘work’.

However, as the great Bob Dylan once uttered: the times they are a-changin’. I’m a bit fed up with Twitter. I used to love it, and it still has its draws, but I’m growing weary of some of the less positive aspects of its character.

Back in the day, Twitter was the place I first ‘met’ some fantastic people from the world of education. Many of those I have subsequently met in real life and a good number have become really good actual friends. That’s amazing and feel so fortunate that it happened.

Back in the day, Twitter was a place for sharing and debating ideas and resources. Teachers would create a Dropbox folder containing a scheme of work on the Vikings along with a list of iPad apps that supported the topic well. They’d share it freely on Twitter and people would say “thanks”. That was kinda nice.

Back in the day, live online chats were a relatively big part of my Twitter activity. It was a regular occurrence for me settle down for an hour of #ukedchat discussion with some fellow professionals, or to hop (virtually) across the pond to discuss all things American Ed in the even faster-paced #edchat. It was inspiring. It was useful. It was fun!

These days, however, I find myself using Twitter less and less. It’s partly because I follow far too many people, meaning that whether I use Tweetdeck in a desktop web browser, or the Twitter app on my iPhone, there is just too much content for me to engage with. More about that here. I guess that’s my fault and reducing the number of people I follow would help, but it would be such a big undertaking that I simply can’t be bothered.

Part of the reason I wanted to write this blog post was because I read this Guardian Secret Teacher article that discusses some of the less desirable aspects to teachers’ social media use, namely tweets that:

  • moan about the world of education
  • deliberately boast about what a great teacher the poster is (usually implicitly)
  • shamelessly self-promote
  • exacerbate the problem of the Twitter ‘celebrity’ teacher
  • follow the passive aggressive form of the #justsaying or ‘rant over’ suffixes

A lot of the points raised in the article are ones I agree with or can relate to, and I think I share some of those frustrations. I certainly hate those celebrity-style tweeters who shamelessly self-promote, retweeting every bit of praise they ever receive. Perhaps I sound bitter. I’m really not.

(And I do understand it to an extent. At the beginning of my life as an independent consultant I definitely got the balance wrong between posting useful original content and promoting my paid offerings – I’m sure many people were as frustrated by my promotional tweets as I am by the tweets of many others. I think I have reached a kind of equilibrium once again).

The bigger issue for me though is the way in which it is almost impossible to have a reasonable debate on Twitter, not least due to the overwhelming amount of content and the constraints that 140 characters enforces (I wonder how that will change when the 10,000 character limit is introduced – not much I suspect).

More worryingly though, I think this is because the internet needs to grow up. We need to grow up. How many times do Twitter conversations descend into (often personal) attacks? How many YouTube videos have successfully sustained themselves without some sort of trolling or ridiculous ‘arguments’? Watching examples of Godwin’s law unfold in front of my eyes on the net used to be quite amusing. Now it’s just tiresome.

I don’t know what the solution is. Perhaps it’s to migrate much of my professional dialogue to another platform. Staffrm and Medium are sites I have been aware of for some time but have not yet explored properly. I probably should (any thoughts on either would be appreciated). The often childish, or perhaps just ‘young’, nature of Twitter is just less appealing than it once was. Maybe these alternatives are a bit more grown up. Maybe they’re not.

I’m not quite as angry as the above ‘Secret Teacher’ (I find it interesting when teachers feel that their views or they way in which they choose to air them cannot be shared publicly under their own names) about the medium of Twitter quite yet. But its magic is fading fast. Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe it’s yours. Who knows…