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  • Leon de Stadler


Then you might be putting yourself at risk

"twitter ... 1. to utter the successive chirping notes of a bird, make a bird's continuing small noises ... 2. to chatter in light inconsequential fashion, talk busily of small or negligible things ..." (Webster's Dictionary)

Over the past year or two a number of controversial Twitter-feeds hit the media. Two high profile Twitter-cases come to mind: the trigger-happy president of the United States, Donald Trump, and the South African politician, Helen Zille. In both cases they have caused themselves and others a lot of problems and pain because of their use of this particular medium, in the one case even to the extent that it lead to expulsion from certain positions and functions.

A lot has been written about the advantages and disadvantages of Twitter, and not all of it well-considered in terms of what we see happening on this medium every day. Here is an example:

"My experiences have been that it is an incredibly effective communication tool. Mainly because you can reach so many people with one-click, but also because of its "shorthand" nature, it makes people really think about their message and exactly what words they want to convey. This, in my experience, makes it an effective communication tool." Thus writes Steve Momorella, Owner, TEKGROUP Online Newsrooms and Social Media Answered on March 10, 2011 in response to a contribution about the value of Twitter as a communication tool (internet search on 14 June 2017).

Yes, I agree that Twitter can be a very valuable tool, but here is my problem: When it comes down to the principles of effective communication design, Twitter encourages a very typical short-message-format. It does not encourage full explanations, the development of complex arguments, the development of complex ideas, etc. Furthermore, my analysis of a large number of Twitter discussions indicate that people do not always "really think about their message and exactly what words they want to convey". On the contrary: They so often seem to respond quickly, to shoot from the hip - without thinking, needing to explain themselves and elaborate afterwards when things go wrong.

The warning when considering cases such as Trump, Zille and many others is clear: When dealing with complex concepts or issues, Twitter might not be the way to go. I cannot help to then think of the medium in exactly the terms suggested in the definition above - actually quite scary, when you think about the image conjured up by the name. It should make you think!

Visit my website or contact me for more on effective communication design.


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