Twitter IRL: How Online Behavior Changes Us

Situation: a bunch of venture dudes shouting one-line quips while the speaker tries to get through their presentation. My first reaction was “shhhh.” My second was, “none of these are good jokes.” My third was, “OMG, this is Twitter In Real Life!” That’s not a criticism of Twitter – although I have self-selected into a feed that’s “venture dude” heavy – but rather an observation about how online behavior can change offline norms.

Jenna Wortham, of the NYTimes, wrote about Twitter’s increasing evolution towards noisy performance art and while I don’t agree fully with her opinion, the mechanics of “say something funny/faux insightful, get fav’ed” is inarguably a norm within my community. Live in that cycle long enough and of course your behaviors are going to be modified. Translated into meatspace you get a noisy cacophony where listening becomes more about finding your moment to slyly interject rather than being present. Maybe having everyone Tweeting on their smartphones in public is the lesser of two evils. At least it keeps them quiet.