Are You Antisocial if You Do Not Tweet?

Are You Antisocial if You Do Not Tweet?Do we decide how to behave?

Maybe I have decided to be an antisocial misfit, or simply a stuck-in-the-rut, crusty old man. Today for the first time I logged onto my Facebook account and scrolled through a few interesting, and mostly uninteresting entries. Eons ago I signed up for a Twitter account, but maybe used it once. Not that I have anything against Facebook, Twitter, or social networking in general; it is just that I do not see the value in it for me.

The evidence is that I am terribly wrong and obviously missing something. When millions, maybe billions, of people happily engage in activities that seem pointless to a minority of users, a rational person must assume that the people who do not enjoy these activities are missing something. Yet I write weekly posts both on decisions (as this piece) and tutoring for seniors. The effort of formal blogging is rewarding, and the frequent exchanges of information with readers are useful and fun. How does this differ from posting similar information on Facebook and engaging in multiple replies?

Perhaps a major difference is that when a person sits down to write a 750-1000 word article about a defined subject, more than casual thought must be put into the effort. An idea is selected, a thesis built up, and a method of presentation defined. Perhaps references are found. Finally, and for me extremely importantly, the final product must be proofread after letting it set for a while. This last step, which is often totally lacking in social media posts, helps to eliminate typos, sloppy writing, and disorganized thoughts. We should all envy the person who can sit down and simply start typing a magnificent, coherent article on any arbitrary topic. That is not me. I have to work at it.

A similar thing happens in live video feeds. I have the greatest admiration for Chris who can, in real time, read responses, point to relevant articles, give his own point of view, and make it interesting — all on the fly. That is not me. If I were to do a regular video, I would prefer the protection of offline editing.

So there are two aspects to my rejection of social media as a pastime: my own lack of skills in presenting and posting the type of immediate material that seems to be the meat on most posts, and my lack of interest in the material that most people think is important to put out there for everyone to see. The second point is similar to my rejection or ignoring most of the humorous emails that some people feel is necessary to mass mail to everyone on their contact lists.

Notice that I am not putting down the use of Facebook or Twitter, if you are addicted to them, then more power to you. If you feel compelled to share with all your email contacts the latest cartoon that tickles your fancy, go for it. No, I am simply trying honestly to understand why such activities are so attractive to so many people and not to me.

Both my wife and I keep a record of the books we read. We enter the date of completion, the title, the author, and some comments. On the average, I will consume 3-4 books a month — a few novels and sci-fi — but mostly non-fiction. We can use these lists to estimate the total number of words read in a given time and compare that to the equivalent number of words that would be read by scanning Facebook daily. With somewhat more effort, we could estimate the number of new ideas or thought-provoking concepts that one encounters in the equivalent exposure to reading or spending time on social media. In spite of the obvious problems in making such an estimate, reading is the obvious winner by a large margin. So in answer to the question posted above, we can conclude that a person who spends more time reading than engaging in social media is not necessarily being antisocial by voluntary decision. Such a person might simply be acting more efficiently in time management. Such a person might really be highly social. In my case, I am active in PC clubs, and volunteer at several venues. Surely that qualifies as being socially active.

But returning to the potential of inter-generational differences, I vividly remember the disdain my father showed toward early rock and roll. He could not believe that we actually preferred to listen to Elvis instead of the Dorsey brothers or Glen Miller. Consider the usage breakdown:

Facebook User Breakdown by Age

  • 13 — 17 : 11%
  • 18 – 25 : 29%
  • 26 – 34 : 23%
  • 35 – 44 : 18%
  • 45 – 54 : 12%
  • 55+ : 7%

Social Media Marketing: Social Media Age Demographics for Facebook and Twitter | Roy Morejon

If the last category (55+) had been broken down further, the 65+ users would probably be even lower. So my lack of interest might just be a matter of demographics. We like to think we are individuals, but, in fact, we are all members of groups with highly predictable behavior. That came home to me earlier this year when my wife and I were on a cruise through the Eastern Caribbean islands. Walking around the decks on such a ship, one becomes aware of the demographics of cruising. There are a few families with small children, some honeymooners, and mostly seniors. We are highly predicable, even when we like to think we are being unique.

By not being a Facebook regular, I am not being antisocial. On the contrary, I am falling neatly into the behavior of my demographic. That frustrating realization is almost enough to make me rebel and want to post something of Facebook! Maybe I will use Twitter to make myself different.

No, we do not always decide our own behavior — that is why advertising works.

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  • Chris Gingerr

    I think your 13 — 17 category is a bit under estimate.

    • sdeforest

      Yeah, I agree, but that is the best breakout I could find. Even if that category is larger, that still supports my position.

    • Casey Frennier

      I believe it. Facebook is so spammed up with everyone’s everything that I can’t imagine anyone that age wanting to use it over SMS, MMS, or Instagram.

  • Olivia Fletcher

    I normally would reply via Twitter, but decided to post a blog comment instead.

    First, I find it fascinating that you and your wife track the books you read for the purpose (in part) of noting how many words you’re reading. As a person interested in statistics and data analysis, I think that’s an interesting exercise, and such logs can definitely be valuable on more than one level.

    Second, your final paragraphs are thought-provoking – that people tend to fall into trendable demographic behaviors which in the large scheme of things may be unique, but less so within their own environment, age group, etc.

    Personally I like having a blend of friends and contacts that *are* well-read, and then sharing and discussing the ideas and articles and books we encounter through means like Facebook and Twitter. I definitely don’t think this is the norm for social media, however.

    • sdeforest

      Thank you for the comments. You shared more than a tweet would have allowed. Sharing and discussing are good things. Simply putting out some short factual tidbit “I am having a cafe latte.” is not very stimulating or promoting growth. It smacks of egoism (not egotism, but that too). Of course social media at its best rises above that low standard.

      • morganwesterman

        Newsflash: Blogging = Social Media.

        • sdeforest

          Okay, Blogging is social media in the same way that buses and sedans are both motor vehicles. Perhaps we need clearer nomenclature, or maybe my distinction is nonsense. We can imagine a spectrum from newspaper editorials to blogging to FaceBook to Twitter. I think that is a logical progression. Then we can signal where we are on that spectrum with category words. Think on the category words for human weight (fat, obese, chubby, full, lithe petite, etc). Yet weight is a continuum. You have a good point.

  • dialyn

    It seems to me that Facebook and Twitter are all about self-promotion…the marketing of the me-me-me generation. I can’t think of anything I’d have so interesting to post in either place that would make it worth anyone’s time to read or mine to post. I will post comments here and there on sites like this but I expect to be ignored (and properly so). It appears to me the Facebook and Twitter are the favorites of people who demand to be noticed, if only by the marketers being sold their information.

    • sdeforest

      Fear not: I will never ignore you. As to self- promotion, see my response to Olivia below. I think we are in agreement.

  • Gerald Falkenstein

    Real men don’t tweet.

    • sdeforest

      That is short enough to be a tweet.

  • DCA

    I have a Twitter account. I do not remember the name or any other log in information. Used once to enter a contest I did not win. I can not imagine who among my friends would want an update as to my latte state. So far the number of people who have asked for my Twitter account information – 0. The number of friends who have told me their Twitter account – 0. Guess my people are not Twits . I have a Facebook account. I signed up at the same time as my daughter (one of my three friends). I accepted four friend requests that I had lying around. One promptly defriended me. Okay – I admit I used a random number e-mail address, a fake birth date and my first name really isn’t Slarty. The scary part of this is that even though the random number has never been used anywhere but Facebook – Facebook’s “People you may know” often contains people I do know.
    This does not mean I am anti-social. I average around ten e-mails a day from individuals and search my name and city on Google and the first three responses are my Linkedin account, business webpage and family photospread. Despite the fact that certain technically illiterate people complain that will not bring up my photos I get enough hits to be ahead of the dentist with the same name.

  • Jan Nadeau

    I would agree that Facebook and Twitter are not for everyone. Being a computer analyst, I am drawn to these social media to some degree. Being nearly 65 puts me squarely in the demographic of the smallest percentage who use these. Personally I don’t like Twitter, but I do see a value. I love Facebook on a number of levels. I have over 2000 “friends” – mostly acquired through their free games. I have friends all over the world. It is fasinating to interact with so many people from virtually everywhere. It also allows me to interact with friends whom I have known for decades but would likely never contact via other methods.. ie, letter writing, phone calling, etc. And allows me to stay in touch with my children and grandchildren and what they are doing on a daily basis. It has allowed me to “meet” our great-granddaughter who was born in Germany who is now 4 months old and only just this week arrived in the US for a visit! These things are priceless to me. Blogging is an excellent method of communicating to large numbers of people. People post interesting information everywhere. I, personally, love being connected to it all. I can always choose to ignore any of it, but there is a lot of WOW out there that enriches my life in ways I never dreamed possible. Thanks so much for the enlightening article. I really enjoyed it!

    A media junkie in Michigan :-)

    • sdeforest

      I am originally from Michigan. We had a farm in Adrian and I went to college in Houghton. Sorry I did not see your comment earlier