Saturday, March 7, 2015

Don't Call Twitter a Community

Beth Still recently wrote a blog post, Special #FF Request, where she asked her network to add teachers from Beth's district she was trying to get more involved in Twitter. In the post she writes:
'Now for my special request. Please make some room in your PLN to connect with my colleagues. Follow them. Tweet them. Encourage them. And please be patient and forgive them if they don't reply right away. A few of them are Twitter pros but others are just getting started. It takes a while to get Twitter and that the more we interact the more likely we are to realize the power of Twitter. Please help me give this fantastic group of educators a reason to stick around.' 
I saw the tweet yesterday but didn't have the time to read the post so I read the post this morning and went through and followed her suggestions. I noticed many didn't have a lot of followers, many only in the teens. Then I checked their followers and mostly it was the others from the list. I didn't see any of Beth's Twitter network following any of them.

This is the difference between a network and a community. A network loosely follows and interacts. They often only engage when it is something that benefits them. On the other hand, a community is different. A community realized their responsibilities to each other and, as I often explain to my students, being part of a community sometimes means doing things you don't really want to do because it is best for the community and not ourselves.

Am I calling you out? Maybe, only you know where you stand with your use of Twitter. Just don't call it a community if you use it like a network.


  1. When you live in your feed, it's like eating by yourself at a buffet. Yeah there's lots of choices, lots of info. When you live in your interactions it's like eating at a small restaurant w/ your friends. Fewer choices, more friendship. 

    In my 20 years of teaching I find that I actually make, plan, create, reflect, and improve my teaching more with a good friend than with a PLC or PLN. 

    I like to call my PLN my Personal Learning Neighborhood, that's way different than a Professional Learning Network. PS are their any unprofessional learning networks? If so please send me links, that sounds pretty fun. 

    PS I cross-commented this on G+ sorry if that bothers anyone.

    1. Since you are the only person that commented, David, I don't know who there would be here to complain ;)

    2. David and Will, I would like to be a part of your ULN as well. KaiThxBai!

  2. I definitely use twitter as a network, while Google plus communities actually operate as communities. It's much easier to provide the kind of long term interaction and detailed discussion on the latter, so it's my preferred place to engage in real learning. I use twitter more as a place to provoke thought, in others, but more frequently on myself.

    Facebook is my non - professional learning network. Not complaining, just some sort of mental lobe in the sand.

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  4. Hi, Will. (I found a typo in my previous comment, so that's why I deleted it and re-commented here.)

    Long-term, I think it's impossible for Twitter to be used as a community because nothing can replace face-to-face interaction with other human beings. A true community can only be sustainable by acknowledging responsibilities to each other through being open and vulnerable in authentic, real-life relationships, which is quite impossible to develop through tweets--despite how many 140-character replies a "conversation" entails. :) From my own experience, Twitter can certainly be useful to engage in meaningful communication with other passionate teachers in a community-like setting when sacrifices are being made for the benefit of others (ex: participating in a Twitter chat to share teaching ideas instead of watching an episode of Bones on Netflix; retweeting someone's blog post and a month later, forcing yourself to follow through with a comment because you respect the blogger, even though you've never met him, and you want to support his blogging endeavors, etc.).

    Based on your definition, I would venture to say that by and large, Twitter is most certainly only used as a network because when it comes to social media, generally, people really do only engage in something if it benefits them (after all, focusing on yourself is part of human nature, so that makes sense).

    Overall, unless relationships are established outside of Twitter and regularly maintained through other modes of communication (face-to-face, voice-to-voice, email, etc.), then aside from short-term periods, Twitter can and only will be properly used as a network--a potentially valuable and wonderful network, but still just a network nonetheless.

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