Wednesday, 7 April 2010

It's Just a Conversation

Lately we’ve had several cases of feathers getting ruffled over words tweeted on Twitter. The latest being the highly respected (and also someone I personally know) Motivator-cum-Public Personality Mario Teguh, whose words of wisdom and inspiration could be watched regularly on his high brow show The Golden Way on Metro TV. Indeed, such is his eloquence and power to motivate the listener to believe there is indeed a golden way by which one can pursue one’s life, that Mario has developed a fairly large following.

His success is the embodiment of a good product, nicely packaged and effectively marketed to the right audience. Here we have a fine, credible speaker with quality messages of positive thinking and self-empowerment appearing on a high quality television station (if I may say so myself) to a willing audience thirsty for knowledge and desirous of personal development.

On the Internet his presence is equally influential. His Twitter account had followers in the tens of thousands - which, as it turned out, recently became the bane of his life when some pithy advice that he dished out in this 140 character microblogging platform, did not go down so well with some of his thousands of followers and others on Twitterland that happened to listen in to the conversation and generated a lively online discussion.

In short, it was not the sort of response that he expected, desired or welcomed which prompted him to close down his Twitter account, which as could be expected did not end the discussion but if anything brought it out of the virtual world to the mainstream media.

Now, I’m not so much interested in discussing the merits of the message that caused the heated debate and the equally questionable responses to the message. After all, everyone is entitled their own opinions and have their own ways of expressing those opinions. What I find more noteworthy is the fact that all these different new media platforms that we’re now exposed to and only recently used in great frequency, such as Facebook and Twitter, also demand new ways of viewing and approaching communication that perhaps we all need to learn and get used to.

It may be that it’s ‘trendy’ to have a Facebook or Twitter account, but at the end of the day, these platforms are merely tools of communication – and as with any tool, one needs to know how it works in order to use it well. Otherwise, in might end up hurting you or, as in the case of Mario Teguh, you feel that this is not the best tool for you to use even if millions of other people are using it.

Mario is used to communicating on a platform, whether on a glitzy stage with live audience on the television or in front of a large number of spectators who have come specifically to listen to his lecture. It is basically a one-way communication with perhaps some controlled question and answer session in a setting that is polite and formal.

When we have meetings at the office, especially where management is present, the way we communicate is highly different to, for example, when we gossip at the water cooler, chitchat in the canteen or meet afterhours at a café or bar. When we’re at home we take on even more diverse way of communicating, adopting different tones of voice and choices of words depending on whether we’re addressing the household staff, the spouse, the younger members of the family, the elderly parents or those with whom we’re having romantic relations.

The key is, knowing exactly which room we’re in and who it is we’re talking to. For example, would you use bad words in a serious boardroom meeting? Or, would you listen in to conversations held amongst a bunch of teenagers and even bother joining their discussion by offering your opinion?

Social networking platform is exactly that. When you join a Twitter or Facebook account you’re basically entering a room which is more similar to the office pantry than a seminar or a board meeting, or, as most Internet users in Indonesia are young, urban, relatively well-off with access to the technology and enamoured with novelties, more akin to entering a school playground or student coffee bar during recess or break time.

For a lot of Twitter users the medium is great for venting and expressing opinions on anything and anyone at that particular moment, instantly and often without depth or thorough reflection – meaningless chatter that need not be taken seriously as they jump from one topic to another with incredible speed as the constantly changing Trending topic attests.

If you are a teacher, you know this is not the time or place that you expect to hear politesse and hear niceties being exchanged or for bosses to hear complimentary things about their style of leadership.
Hence for those who have opinions but cannot withstand criticisms and the fact that others might not just share that opinion, or those who have an under developed sense of humour when dealing with unruly verbal expressions and cannot accept that their words or points of view are not treated with reverence, then social networking is really not for them.

(Desi Anwar: First published in The Jakarta Globe)

1 comment:

  1. Recently, i heard from someone that some corporation in America are actually viewing their potential recruits Facebook. It is certainly not in my position to surmise their intention but it is a reasonable guess to suggest that these companies seek for second opinions from their job candidates friends or relatives who are listed in their online social communication forum contact. You said that Facebook and Twitter is just a form of medium where it emulates more as an "office pantry than a seminar or a board meeting...". Yet, how do we reconcile the fact that. despite the original purpose of its invention as a place where one may vent and express opinions, some greater role are actually being exploited by other parties like when way before a job candidate is accepted to work, corporations are using the social networking website as part of their due diligence check. Isn't this the reason why a pristine image even in the cyber world may worth preserving? I think its useless to look at social networking website from the original purpose it's meant to serve. Facebook, for instance, have grown at an exponential rate over the past five years. And with more and more crowds climbing on the bandwagon, it's worth noting that perhaps there is more than just the ethic of communicating that's at stake.


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