In Twitter We Trust

24 Mar
2009

I had been thinking about trust over the past couple of weeks, for a variety of reasons. Naturally, my mind started to wander towards social media and online interactions, and how they relate to issues of trust.  Perhaps this is a topic that can not, and should not, be tackled in one brief blogpost. But I would like to start with an observation of the underlying culture of Twitter and Twitterers. Across the board, the Twitterers who have amassed a significant number of followers and social capital, share a similar attitude towards “sharing and caring”.  They have been generous with their insight and advice to other Twitterers, and in turn have let us all into their worlds. They don’t tweet simply about their business, but also about their personal lives, dreams and worldviews – from the mundane to the phillosophical. (Unfortunately there is such a thing as oversharing at the far end of the spectrum, and yours truly is definitely guilty of that :).  At the end of the day, their “humanness” jumps off the screen, as they are trusting the larger Twitter community with their insights, thoughts, dreams, problems, trials and tribulations – in professional and personal lives. They are putting it (almost) all out there, to start conversations, be part of the conversation, and form meaningful connections.

This is a very cultural thing. The Twitter / web entrepreur / social media community is very much like that, and it seems to be the norm rather than an exception. As a very tightly knit community, we normalize this behavior and sometimes forget that not the entire world is like that, and other communities are drastically different. This culture of “sharing and caring” is a total antithesis to the real estate community, for example. Before I started to revolve in social media / tiwtterati circles, I spent time in the real estate investor community. My personal path evolved in quite a curious way: from a real estate investor to a real estate entrepreneur (I saw just way too many problems that weren’t being solved), to a web entrepreneur and admirer of all things social, web and Twitter.  The real estate investor community is as opposite from the social web community as can be. Not only aren’t people forthcoming with information and tips on how to be successful, you can’t even beat it out of them, if you wanted to (of course, I don’t condone any beatings of any sort). Every time that I asked fellow seasoned investors for their advice on how they became successful, and what steps I should take, their response was, without fail: “take this class, I took it and paid for it, and so should you.” It is a cutthroat, scammy community, who is anything but collegiate, with most people out to make a quick buck, and then move on to a new scam, ahem, class. It’s no wonder that no one trusts anyone, everyone guards his / her secrets and constantly looks over his / her shoulder. It is my hunch, based on years of observation and practice, that they would be so much more successful collaborating with each other than spending energy on shutting each other out.

The real estate investor culture is a significant reason of why I have started to disassociate myself from the investor circle and have started to embrace this web technology circle more closely. This happened because the “Twitter” type of attitude and spirit is much closer to my own personality and worldview, and I am just much happier here. I am very open, trusting, and don’t mind sharing my life and living it in the open (within reason of course – still plenty of personal stuff that I won’t share on Twitter or any other platform). I hold the belief that if we all work together, we can achieve a whole lot more than if we all dispersed to our corners and tapped away on our laptops alone.

Thinking about my journey brought me to this next realization: your social media personality is really just an overemphasized extension of your IRL (in real life) personality. If you are an authentic person who enjoys sharing helping, believes in Twitter Karma, believes in “paying it forward”, then Twitter and other such tools are for you. But if you like to keep all your cards close to your chest, and people at an arm’s length, then your success on Twitter will be limited. You will certainly be able to use it as a platform to communicate very sterile pieces of information (devoid of any “humannes”) in a broadcast fashion. But will anyone really care? Probably not. Unless you take the time to get to know others, interact with them, help others and share yourself. And all of this can only happen when you trust. When you trust your followers to not judge you, to not slander you, to not ridicule your “humanness”. And you have to trust that they trust you back, trust you enough to share themselves and help you. After all, you have to trust to be trusted. So take a plunge. This is a new era of openness, transparency and humanness (even our government is working on being more transparent – now that is something that I never thought I would live to see).

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  • http://auciello.tumblr.com @midwaybeach

    Very thoughtful, insightful, and articulate post. It really is no surprise that Twitter is growing exponentially in concert with Obama’s mandate of transparency.

    I’d say the silver lining of this current economic mess is that a new era of sharing, collaboration, and thoughtfulness has been created and is constantly evolving.

    It’s a new wave.

    For the first time in my life (I’m 29), I’ve noticed that almost everyone is cognizant of our current condition and follows business news carefully. As a (still) loyal black and white reader, the sports section had always been the first read each morning, but now that routine has been replaced with the business section.

    We all want to find some sense of this calamity, and now realize that transparency, not just in government and business, but in our day-to-day lives is paramount.

    Sharing is how we cope, and Twitter is a great facilitator.

    “For the world has changed, and we must change with it” — President Obama

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