Twitter: Friends In Real Life?

Twitter is an interesting social network in the fact that you can follow and interact with people all around the world in a way that Facebook or others do not promote. It often calculates your followers, who they follow and suggests people you may know in a list to the left hand side. They have also taken a more proactive stance by creating pop up boxes above your feed suggesting you follow certain people and that you should tweet them then and there. They also email you suggestions in case you are not active on the platform itself in a way to lure you back on. The problem is, they don’t usually get it right. This article looks at why it can work, why it doesn’t always work, and why sometimes it’s just down right funny!

Why It Can Work

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By having pop ups, emails or suggestion boxes on show, it prompts you into looking for friends, people of interest or people you just feel you should be following. The whole point of social media is to be social and connect and so this helps you to achieve that. Even when they get it wrong and suggest people you don’t know, you may find that they are tweeting things you are interested in or simply enjoy and so it can be  a pleasant mistake. They also suggest experts in their field, excellent if you want to follow people who really know what they are talking about and that you can learn from and interact with. Another good aspect is that it can suggest celebrities that are on Twitter but you may not have been aware of. So you can follow them and keep up to date with your favourite stars. As you can see from the photo, who doesn’t want to follow John Hurt?!

Why It Doesn’t Always Work

Although it does its best to suggest people relevant to the topics you tweet and the people you follow and are connected with, it doesn’t always get it spot on. It detects who you follow, who they follow and how many other people you have in common in order to suggest them. This means you are often shown links to profiles and people you don’t know and may not be relevant. It can’t be helped, there is a limit to technology and calculations, but it does sometimes clutter up your sidebar. The pop ups at the top of your feed are far more prominent and interactive and when these are incorrect, it feels a bit like you’re being spammed by the network. For example, I keep getting the following pop up:Screen Shot 2013-06-12 at 10.28.20

I have no idea who this Tommo is. I looked at his profile to make sure, he lives on the other side of the country, we don’t even have any connections in common online or real life, so why is it telling me to tweet people I don’t know? If people did just tweet these suggestions out of interest, out of boredom, is that not spam?

It Gets It So Wrong That It’s Funny

There have been occasions when Twitter have got it so wrong with their suggestions of friends, that you can’t help but actually laugh. Take, for example, my friend who received an email from Twitter saying he has connections to Nick Clegg and should sign in and tweet him. Nick Clegg, for those who don’t know, is the UK Deputy Prime Minister and someone who my friend definitely does not have connections with! Seeing as he doesn’t use his Twitter account, he turned to Facebook to tell his friends of the ridiculous idea, much to everyone’s delight. It’s funny  and wrong for two reasons. Firstly, that it thinks people are connected in real life outside of the network and so must know each other and suggest we contact them. Secondly, that it has suggested one of the most high profile politicians in the country, suggesting people tweet them and so opens them up to criticism and attack from others on Twitter. Not nice, but to be expected when things like this happen and people jump at the chance to tell politicians what they really think!

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Twitter wants people to get, and stay, connected. That helps people use their platform and tweet more. It means you can be made aware of friends, colleagues or celebs that you are interested in following. However, it isn’t completely accurate and so you should be aware that not everyone suggested in the emails, sidebar or pop ups, is relevant or right to connect with. Use your discretion and only follow those you really want to, and certainly don’t tweet anyone just because Twitter thinks you should.


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