I had a great first night out in Aspen tonight with a new friend, Casey McConnell, who is the CEO of Qittle, a social marketing company. We went to see Solas, an amazing Celtic band, very jamin'... think more Pogues meets Grateful Dead than Lord of the Dance kind of thing. Really fantastic music.
Anyhow, before the show, we were talking about Twitter and what the future of Twitter might be. As the night progressed, I found myself thinking about social networking, and what Twitter has changed. I thanked Casey for Re-Tweeting something I'd posted, and he mentioned Social Karma.
These thoughts gelled in my head on the way home, and I realized that I was thinking about Emily Post, and my mother teaching me to set the table properly. I thought about my father's exquisite hand-writing, my Uncle Pat's extraordinary ability to write a thoughtful letter on an actual typewriter.
People have been complaining for years about the fact that technology, while trying to bring us closer, has driven us apart. We don't take the time to write a letter, we don't take the time to talk on the phone, because we can text. We can email. There is no formality, social graces have gone the way of the rotary phone for most of us.
And now I think about Twitter. And the people who use this wonderful little tool well. When its used simply as marketing (ie: Ski Resorts that do nothing but tweet deals and prices), people ignore it, it becomes the white noise of the dancing baby on the sidebar of whatever website you are visiting.
But when people use it well, they post real items from their day, mixed in with business. Twitter has just enough anonymity, you are sending this tweet, generally, not to a person, but just out into the Twitterverse as it were, and it allows you to show your human face. I think we are not only willing, but seduced by the idea of having our very own Pensive... you spill your thoughts into the streaming Twitterverse and off they go. Whoever is watching at the time will see it go by like a leaf in a stream. Its like plugging into the collective conscious (or unconscious)of the human race. At least that part of the human race that's wired and mobile.
And when you show your human face, you allow others to connect to you on a real level. Most people that play on Twitter know that this is true. But what really hit me tonight, is that for Twitter to work as well as it does, you have to say Please and Thank You.
When you RT (re-tweet) something that means something to you, and you get a Thank You back, suddenly, you are connected to the original author. You've made a connection in 280 characters. And when you tweet something, most of the time, you don't expect a RT. So the RT comes as a bit of a gift, a surprise, you are never sure who is going to do it, and its pretty easy to say, wow, thanks!
There is this sort of "pay it forward" mentality that would make Ms. Post proud. Or my mother, for that matter. (Yes, I know which one is the fish fork. To her credit, I also know how to braid and burn a line for a ship.)
Is it possible that we've begun to come full circle? Can this over-familiarity breed manners back into our bereft, fractured, poorly socialized, narcissistic society? Are we becoming a community again? What a wonderful beginning that would be.