Monday, January 10, 2011

The death of the retweet button*

When I first heard the term Social Media, I didn't quite grasp its significance. But then I delved into it, by joining Facebook, Linked In and Twitter and started hearing things like "You're not supposed to do stuff like that on Linked In" and "What do you mean you didn't "like" it? That's why he's angry with you." and the more common "That's not really appropriate material for Twitter." Of course I now use these expressions too, as the medium quickly develops into an independent society with etiquette, norms and yes, traditions. Since I'm not really an expert, I am not going get into the sociocultural theories behind all this. What I want to do is just express my amazement at one specific phenomenon.

I have recently noted with sadness the demise of the retweet button*, as more and more people claim ownership of tweets they had nothing to do with. This used to be done by starting off with a zero-added-value word like "WOW" or "LOL" to justify placing an RT before the tweet, instead of just pressing Retweet. I have to admit that I have been guilty of this charge on several occasions. The thing is, no one even bothers with that any more. They would rather go through the tedious process of copying the entire tweet and placing it in their tweet box, then deleting all unnecessary crap that comes on there. Then, they write the magical "RT" right before it. That way, if anyone else liked the tweet, their name remains as tribute to their efforts of finding that valuable piece of info and sharing it with the rest of the world.

To take this a step further, I feel that many people now only "Retweet" as an act of charity, for example to a new Twitter member who has very few followers and you would like to support them.

I guess it's a little naive of me to be so surprised by this. After all, Twitter has become another place of fierce competition and the sooner you get a news item out the higher the value of your account. It is no longer the place to share information freely, but to compete on who shares it the most.

So from now on, I declare myself a non-profit Twitter user, and pledge to never RT for my own personal gain.

*Note for those of you non-Twitter users: The Retweet button kind of works like a Facebook Share button, except that it shows who the owner of the original tweet was more prominently than the person who retweeted it. If another person following the retweeter also retweets the message, then the middle man disappears and only the identity of the original tweeter appears. For those of you non-Facebook, non-Twitter users, I don't know what to tell you.


Loulia said...

Great post. I make the same vow!
Though the only times I've tempered with a retweet happened for the following reasons:

- user protects their tweets so only their followers can read them (Wtf?Wtf?). This makes the retweet button literally disappear from their tweets.
- the tweet is so goddamn long that trimming the fat off is necessary to stay below 140 characters.

Annika said...

About the etiquette of Twitter - do you RT tweets by protected profiles? Is that unethical (is that word too strong for Twitter? Probably is.), I assume, they protect their tweets for a reason.

The RT button itself does erase the original finder - it leaves the source untouched but if I get something because you retweet it and I retweet it too, you disappear from the chain - does that make any sense?

My knowledge of etiquette is rather limited and I do not remember retweeting for personal gain (although, tweeting that you have a new post, might be personal gain.).

The favorites button is another personal gain question. Especially with favstar.

And this comment has gotten far too long already and it's only about Twitter.

Khaled said...

Actually, I think there's another reason not to hit the retweet button and that's to give the followers a hint as to WHY I'm retweeting especially when it's not obvious from the tweet itself. So from my point of view, "LOL" and "WOW" don't add value to the original tweet, but do add value to the retweet by giving a reason for retweet, which combined with the identity of the retweeter, helps me make the judgement on whether or not it may be worth reading (which is extremely valuable when you start following more than just a handful of people).

Khaled said...

That said, yeah I don't get why people would just do "RT" without adding anything at all... I mean there IS a button for that...