I start getting concerned when I watch national news and the reporter cites Twitter messages as evidence of public sentiment. It’s equally interesting when professional friends express dismay when Twitter starts slamming their agencies.
The report below from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism analyses social media coverage of the 2011 presidential campaign but the larger issue (at least to me) is the negative tone set by some social media platforms (i.e., “Twitter is more intensely opinionated. “)
The question is whether Twitter prompts a skewed or negative point of view that unjustifiably influences mainstream news reporting or public opinion. When you post in short bursts it’s hard to present a balanced point of view. When forced to write longer messages my guess is that words become a bit more measured.
When government, nonprofits, associations or corporations get hit with a negative Twitter campaign it‘s always interesting to go over to Google+ or Facebook and additional sites and check out related comments; they seem milder in comparison.
If you are on the receiving end of negative Twitter comments and before a sense of panic steps in, survey additional sites and take the pulse of multiple observers. Crowd psychology applies not just to soccer hooligans and people in Times Square but to the internet as well.
It just seems that 140 characters doesn’t give commenters the leeway to offer something more constructive than “that sucks.”
You can get blasted on other sites but responding seems to prompt a more constructive exchange. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do with harsh Twitter critique; 140 characters doesn’t do much for a constructive exchange.
Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism report—selected findings:
One distinguishing factor about the campaign discourse on Twitter is that it is more intensely opinionated, and less neutral, than in both blogs and news. Tweets contain a smaller percentage of statements about candidates that are simply factual in nature without reflecting positively or negatively on a candidate.
In general, that means the discourse on Twitter about the candidates has also been more negative.
The political discussion on Twitter has also fluctuated with events more than it has in the blogosphere, where the authors seem to have made up their minds and where the tone about candidates shifts relatively little. On Twitter, the conversation about a candidate sometimes changed markedly from week to week, shifting from positive to negative and vice versa.
Finally the new study found that the candidate conversation on Twitter is tremendously active-indeed the number of statements about candidates on Twitter vastly outnumber those offered in blogs by a factor of more than 9 to 1.
If the difference in volume between Twitter and blogs is indicative of something about the volume of the discourse in those two universes, it suggests that tweeting-with its trim 140-character format that readily invites the instantaneous observation-is a more frequent activity than blogging.
President Obama’s negative evaluations on Twitter outweighed his positive ones by 3-1. But overall on Twitter, as is true in blogs, other candidates have received rougher treatment than the president.