I’ve been thinking a bit lately about my digital identity. A long time ago, I never wanted to share anything online — I never used my real name, I never really registered for any online accounts, and I generally just watched from the outside, content to enjoy the, um, content rather than contribute. As my Internet-based career has picked up, though, that’s obviously not really a choice any more, and more recently I’ve just decided my life is more or less an open book. There are still plenty of things I don’t willingly share, but basically I’m upfront about who I am online, and I stand by whatever I post, whether it’s on one of the sites I work on or just some random blog or message board.
I think that’s the right choice, actually — so many things that result in online embarrassment (like, as just a random recent example, this little mini-scandal with the Jets coach) usually just stem from people thinking they were posting anonymously or privately when they really weren’t. If you just figure all of the time that everyone you know (work, friends, family) can read and see everything you post online, then there’s not a lot to worry about. Your parents may see a curse word here and there, and your boss may read that you’re partying on a Friday night, but generally you realize you need to behave yourself.
But my worry lately has been more personal. I’m thinking about writing more for myself — one of my goals for a long time has been to publish a book, and since I’ve just finished a big goal in my life (more on that soon), I think it’s time to start cracking on the publishing thing. I’m looking back at my writing, and have realized that the less I write, the better it tends to be. Some of my favorite things were written back when I was working retail during the day — my only outlet for creativity came after a full day of mindless labor. Nowadays, I pay my checks with writing, and tweet my thoughts all day long, and I’m finding in some cases that at the end of the day, I’ve already said everything I’ve wanted to.
So I’m thinking about how I act online, and what the right thing to do really is. To help correlate some of that thinking, I made up a little survey last night. I wanted to see what people expected of me on Twitter and Facebook, and what my friends and followers wanted out of me. I could probably guess these things (and indeed, in most cases, I did), but surveys and stats are fun, and why not. You may think it’s weird to create a survey just for your Twitter followers, and I wouldn’t disagree, but I thought it was interesting.
So here are the results.
I sent out the link to my Twitter page twice — once last night and once earlier today. My Twitter feed (where I have 3800 followers, give or take a few hundred spambots) goes both here on this site (where almost nobody reads it) and to Facebook, where presumably 400 friends read it, but it’s probably only more like a couple dozen. As of this writing, 73 people responded to the survey. Ostensibly, that’s only a return rate of 1.8%, but what the heck, we’ll just presume these numbers are representative. These people are all self-selected anyway, and they took the time to answer this for me — it’s not like I gave away a fake free iPod or anything.
Actually, I’ll pause for one second here to say that looking at these results, I’d bet that these numbers are representative not just for me, but for most users on Twitter and Facebook. A recent analysis said that most Tweets are actually ignored, and that doesn’t surprise me at all. The things that people want (and don’t want) to see in my Twitter feed probably apply to most people who aren’t me, too. Though I’m just guessing on that.
Anyway, back to the survey. The first question was how much I should tweet. I’ve been pretty sensitive on spam tweeting — I’ve mostly unfollowed all of the people (even friends) who fill up my Twitter list with a series of ten or even twenty tweets in a row. I don’t appreciate spamming or chain tweeting and I try not to do it on my own feeds. Last week, since it was so slow, I actually experimented (though I’m not sure if anyone noticed) with just tweeting once per day, just to see what it was like. Usually, I try to tweet no more often than once per hour. Nobody wants to overdose on Schramm.
55% of respondents said that I should tweet “as much as you do now.” I expected this — people are pretty good at filtering out things they don’t care about, not to mention that this is all being asked of people who are currently following me anyway, so anyone unhappy with the frequency of my tweeting (too much or too little), probably wouldn’t be taking the survey. But what did surprise me is the 39% of people (these percentages are rounded, in case they don’t add up to 100) who said I should tweet more often. I don’t know if I will, but I thought “more” and “less” would be generally split up. Instead, only 4% said to tweet less.
The next two questions were the ones I really wanted to ask — I’ve gotten lots of feedback from singular people on various things I should or shouldn’t tweet about, but I wanted to see some more generic feedback. Of the things that people liked seeing in my tweets, “Random stuff about games” and “Random stuff about WoW” (World of Warcraft, for the uninitiated) battled it out for the top spot with 78%. In the end, games won, and again, not that surprising — games and WoW are most of my work experience so far, and they’re where most of my Twitter followers come from. “Links to interesting stories” are also well liked at 73%, and that’s what I think Twitter is really about for me — sharing things I see online and am interested in.
On the dislike side, I’m not surprised that “Random stuff about my feelings” won with 36% of the vote. That’s what I’ve gotten the most feedback on the past (“Mike, you’re bumming me out!”), and I agree, that’s the least exciting stuff to read on Twitter. But sometimes you have to share that stuff. And a lot of people told me that they were disappointed that the dislike question required an answer (something I did intentionally) — they said they didn’t really dislike anything coming out of my Twitter feed. I appreciate that.
The biggest surprise in this section was the “Really random stuff” answer. I like using Twitter in weird ways — I’ve wanted for a while to try Tweeting as a character for a few days, or Tweet in another language for a bit, or just post something crazy. In the past I’ve tweeted song lyrics that I like, and people usually reply with a “Say wut?” kind of answer. I like using Twitter in random ways, though hopefully never in an annoying fashion. At any rate, you guys probably don’t — “Really random stuff” got the least like votes, and the second most dislike votes. That’s interesting to hear. It probably won’t stop me from being random every once in a while, but I think that’s just a matter of people expecting a certain thing from my feed, and getting something they don’t understand or don’t want. That makes sense, I guess.
Speaking of random, I’m glad to see that 55% of respondents chose pie over cake. I’ve gone back and forth on this important issue, but I’m glad to see that I agree with the current majority.
The essay question answers were as funny as I’d hoped they would be. Here’s a few good ones:
“Fear is butts.”
“I was so terrified after the novel that I named my baby Scout, sorta divorced my action movie star husband and brought this guy from Twitter into our relationship.”
“You are attractive and have many good qualities.”
“There’s a book! I thought it was just a movie.”
“I think Turpster is god.”
“Did you hear about the new restaurant on the moon? Great food, no atmosphere.”
“Well obviously there is a rapist up here in Lincoln Park. He’s climbin’ in your windows, snatchin’ your people up, tryin’ rape, y’all need to hide your kids, hide your wife! And hide your husband cause they rapin’ everyone out there! You don’t have to come and confess, we lookin’ for you, we gonna find you, we gonna find you!”
“Here is a question for you instead – what conceals no more than it reveals? In the hope that you will try to figure this out and get stumped I won’t leave my nick either”
“The best part about To Kill a Mockingbird was that it convinced me that High School English was wasted on horrible books such as this one.”
“Did you know that in patch 4.0.1 for WoW the 2 auctioneers in Thunderbluff swapped places?”
“The idea of the unknown creates fear in us all. Boo is that unknown, but Bob represents the real evil that exists all around us, but it is the known, he is the devil we know, and this is less frightening then the devil we do not, or the devil that we imagine.”
“Pfft, Print is Dead, who reads anymore…”
“Ha ha! Internet.”
Yes, Ha ha! Internet indeed.
And it turns out that everyone, 100%, every single person who took the survey does indeed love me back. Thanks!