Philosophers, psychologists, and scientists have been puzzling over the essential definition of human uniqueness since the beginning of recorded history. The Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert says that every psychologist must, at some point in his or her career, write a version of what he calls “The Sentence.” Specifically, The Sentence reads like this:
The human being is the only animal that ______.
The story of humans’ sense of self is, you might say, the story of failed, debunked versions of The Sentence. Except now it’s not just the animals that we’re worried about.
We once thought humans were unique for using language, but this seems less certain each year; we once thought humans were unique for using tools, but this claim also erodes with ongoing animal-behavior research; we once thought humans were unique for being able to do mathematics, and now we can barely imagine being able to do what our calculators can.
We might ask ourselves: Is it appropriate to allow our definition of our own uniqueness to be, in some sense, reactive to the advancing front of technology? And why is it that we are so compelled to feel unique in the first place?
“Sometimes it seems,” says Douglas Hofstadter, a Pulitzer Prize–winning cognitive scientist, “as though each new step towards AI, rather than producing something which everyone agrees is real intelligence, merely reveals what real intelligence is not.” While at first this seems a consoling position—one that keeps our unique claim to thought intact—it does bear the uncomfortable appearance of a gradual retreat, like a medieval army withdrawing from the castle to the keep. But the retreat can’t continue indefinitely. Consider: if everythingthat we thought hinged on thinking turns out to not involve it, then … what is thinking? It would seem to reduce to either an epiphenomenon—a kind of “exhaust” thrown off by the brain—or, worse, an illusion.
So, what is the science behind credibility on Twitter?
And, does Twitter replace TV as a news source?
The Science behind credibility on Twitter.
To be sum it up, it’s the red shoes I bought this weekend that make my “important” tweets credible and understood.
Without having conversations about yesterday’s perfect running weather, or the retro TV I dug up at an estate sale, and without sharing photos of my paper bag with two eye-holes for Mask Day at work, none of followers would have been interested in my blog post about SXSW 2011.
It is the “unimportant” content that builds traction for the “important” content.
Similarly, I had never had any Twitter conversations with the woman who tweeted Ding Dong! Osama’s dead!, which I know attributed to my miscomprehension and quick dismissal of her tweet.
Underlying innuendos and personalities are difficult to decipher online, until you have some level of a relationship with the individual. At that point, you have an understanding of his or her writing style, interests, attitudes, and you know when he or she is sarcastic, serious, or somber.
It reminds me of when Bob Garfield interviewed a woman, Mona Seif, during the Tahrir Square uproar: The fact that her usual tweets were about her love life, cats and family, allowed her insight into torture cases in Egypt to reach those who typically would not have been interested in it.
There is an emotional connection with individuals, possible through Twitter, that builds credibility for the source and encourages followers to invest time and energy in content outside of their typical interest.
Twitter v. TV – Who is the winner?
Everyone is saying #InternetWins #TVIsDead.
But, I’d like to beg to differ.
Yes, Keith Urbahn leaking the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death, via Twitter, even prior to the broadcasted announcement, is sound reason to believe TV is dead. But, this also shows the power of Twitter as a strategic tool in creating fist-pumping action, in cheering on TV.
Take a look at music artists – somehow their songs and albums are always leaked. There is no doubt the majority of this is done intentionally to tease the public on what is to come.
Looking at the nature of Twitter and the science behind its users and credibility, Twitter can easily be utilized for more than relationship building and conversations. It can be used to whisper teasing words into the puiblic’s ears to instill curiosity and drive even larger, more dedicated, more eager audiences to the TV.
The thing is: the world still falls quiet when someone with credibility speaks on TV.
The number of tweets on my feed during Obama’s speech dropped down to six, but sky-rocketed back up to 166 after the speech.
Twitter is the chatter in the theater before the movie starts, the occasional snicker during the movie, the annoying commentator throughout the movie, and the applause after the show.
But TV is still the main show. Though Twitter was fully active last night, the world still waited for the TV.
Everyone on twitter was saying “Hurry up Obama! I need to shower / a potty break!”
Individuals turn to Twitter, but the world still looks to the TV.
TV is still the one medium that allows one individual completely captivate the world’s attention in one moment.
Lesson learned: Use Twitter as a relationship management tool to bring more action to other media. Publish serious and non-serious content to build up your credibility, garner slight (positive) tension, and gain their trust in reading the “important” content that may live on other media.