Twitter: Microblogging Site for the Lonely and Friendless?

Loic Le Meur, founder of Seesmic, posed this question about Twitter last night,

“your number of friends on Twitter is related to your lack of friends in real life” agree? “

Even Stephen Colbert ripped into the popular micro-blogging site on his recent show,

“Friends” are what you used to have before you joined Twitter.

So does that mean that folks who ‘tweet’ are bored, lonely folks who don’t have a life or friends, so they latch on to complete strangers through Twitter and pretend they are BFF?

I highly doubt it.  

The great thing about Twitter is that it’s a terrific connector and lets you reach out to a wide variety of interesting people and conversations. Most of these folks might be complete strangers and while, there’s a possibility that some of your followers could become your friends and part of your support system in the future, it’s not a guarantee and that’s why Twitter connections are called ‘Followers’ not ‘Friends’.

Twitter follower counts don’t mean much and don’t say anything about one’s offline social life (or lack thereof) because the site’s new and evolving. Many folks that I’ve come across on Twitter tend to be self-employed and/or their work revolves around social media because of their profession – PR, Communications, Marketing, Media, SEO, etc. These professionals tend to spend a ton of time on the site because their next paycheck probably depends on it. Given that it’s a new and growing phenomenon, there are also plenty of newbies who’re experimenting and testing out the site. So, does their current level of engagement on Twitter say anything about their offline life? Nope, not really.

Let’s not forget the celebrities on Twitter including our current President, who’s on the popular microblogging site with over 300K followers . What does that number really tell us? Nothing! It doesn’t mean much because as we all know he’s got a very ‘exciting’ offline life and do we really think the reason he or other celebrities like Ashton Kutcher are on Twitter, because they don’t have any real friends?!

Twitter has about 5million users and that may seem like a huge number but given the site’s global reach, it’s just a drop in the bucket. There are plenty of lonely people out there in the real (offline) world, but many probably aren’t even on Twitter yet. On the other hand, there are many people with huge offline social networks who are having a hard time getting started on Twitter because their offline network is not yet there.

So are there bored, lonely people on Twitter? Sure! Just like there are bored, friendless people at your local pub but it’s premature to write off Twitter as the site for the lonely even before it reaches mainstream.


5 responses to “Twitter: Microblogging Site for the Lonely and Friendless?

  1. Max Levchin, one of Silicon Valley’s smartest entrepreneurs, just joined Twitter. He has lots of real world friends. I find @loic’s question funny.

    • Hi Robert,
      Thanks for your comment! Good point about Max Levchin.
      I can see why some would think any publicity is great. I think it hurts Twitter mainstream adoption, when late night shows start poking fun at Twitter users and making this worse are folks active in this space speculating whether these users are just RL losers. As it is, I get plenty of strange looks from my RL friends who think Twitter is for kooks and can’t imagine why anyone ‘normal’ would use it.

  2. Mia: I have “normal” friends. I don’t have any idea why you want to be one of them.

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