Jane Devine: Twitter works well for women as a powerful tool to communicate what matters to them
WILL you please put that down, we’re at the dinner table!
How many outraged parents have bawled that at a zoned-out teenager playing with a mobile phone? But those words weren’t directed at a young person, they were directed at my friend, by her husband. My friend is a 42-year-old mother of two… with a Twitter addiction.
As a frequent user myself, the appeal to me is clear: instant, easy communication on anything you like to lots of people or none. It’s amazingly informative and if you follow a story that unfolds on Twitter you’re not left at the end of a news bulletin thinking questions like: why Ecuador?
You can join in conversations, or just snoop on them. Rant, or read: it’s incredibly cathartic. It’s freeing too in that you can really choose the people you want to “surround” yourself with. There is no pressure, bad feelings or hurt looks: follow or unfollow – there are no consequences.
But the real appeal for me (and I suspect for many others) is that Twitter can be really powerful, especially for women. Women use Twitter marginally more than men and I think the appeal to them is clear in the way they use it.
While men tend to use Twitter to make statements and debate, women use it in a more complex way. They combine tweets about life, work and issues they are concerned about with support for other women, campaigning, networking and challenging views and structures. This flexible way of using Twitter is why it’s so powerful for women and why so many powerful women are emerging through this medium.
Yet that is not always recognised, in mainstream media at least. Recently, many women tweeters have been frustrated by the lack of women on the various lists claiming to represent the “top 100 tweeters”. What do they expect? If women are under-represented in mainstream media, it follows that when the mainstream media publish lists, they won’t be on there either.
Does it matter? The fact is, women are strong on Twitter and they are influencing debate, creating opinions and changing things. On Twitter they can take things into their own hands and opine, start or contribute to debates with just 140 key strokes.
A debate has been raging recently by women tweeters in Scotland disappointed by the lack of women opining on Scottish political programmes. When @lesleyriddoch had an opportunity to raise this issue at the Edinburgh Festival, it took a matter of minutes for the female Scottish political “Twitterati” to rally round. They compiled a list of women political commentators in Scotland who should and could be invited on to these programmes and got it to their comrade in time for her discussion that evening.
That’s the power of Twitter, that’s how it can work, and that’s why it’s addictive.
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