Writecombination Social Media
by Andrew Knowles

Discover three secret powers of Twitter

Rich cup of coffeeTwitter really is good for you. That’s the conclusion I came to having spent a few minutes talking with psychotherapist and counsellor Alison Moore, from Dorchester.

I recently interviewed Alison about the positive aspects of Twitter, particularly for people who spend a lot of time working alone.

I started by asking about a common criticism of social media, that it’s full of people talking about having cups of coffee.

“There’s a huge amount of value in people sharing the details of their everyday life,” said Alison. “Tweeting about having a cup of coffee might seem really mundane, even a waste of time, but it can have a very positive effect on the person reading the tweet."

"It can be very releasing to someone working at home to see that you’re having a coffee, because it can give them permission to have one themselves.”

The power of human connection

Many of us, myself included, often underestimate the power of connection between people. While we might think that a digital connection is inferior to spending time with someone in person, Alison has an interesting story to tell.

“In the early 1970s, a school friend was really struggling with her maths homework. I agreed to help, by talking to her about it on the phone. I called her and then we both did the work, but we actually said very little. There was an open phone line between us and I remember having the receiver lying beside my books.”

“My friend did the work herself, but I helped simply by being there, at the other end of the line.” Alison was quick to add that her father worked for the Post Office, so the call cost nothing.

A social media network, such as Twitter, can offer the same sense of connectedness with someone, without the need for continual dialogue. “It’s hugely powerful and empowering,” said Alison.

The power of belonging

We have a basic need to belong to a group. “Belonging is good for us,” said Alison. “It’s important to be part of a group, whether it’s family, a club, regulars in the pub, or work colleagues. To get the right amount of mental stimulus for our wellbeing, we should be part of three or four different groups.”

Social media can help us to find some of these groups. “A great example is @WeNurses,” said Alison, referring to a Twitter account run by nurses, for nurses.

WeNurses Twitter logo@WeNurses grew out of one nurse’s feelings of being disconnected from her peers. Today it is managed by a small team and has over 27,000 followers, providing a rolling conversation for health professionals.

Many nurses tweet their thanks for the support that the account provide, even if they just lurk and listen, without taking part in conversation. There’s a therapeutic value in simply reading a stream of tweets talking about issues you can identify with.

“The great thing about Twitter is that you’re not expected to read everything,” said Alison. “You can join in at any time without the anxiety of having missed something.”

Twitter can also help with belonging to offline groups. Both Alison and I have had the experience of going to events where we don’t know anyone, but some of those we meet recognise us. “I follow you on Twitter,” they say, creating an instant point of connection.

The power of privacy

In Alison’s opinion, it’s a lot easier to manage privacy on Twitter than it is on Facebook. Vulnerable people can be deeply hurt by the act of unfriending on Facebook, or by their contacts not choosing to ‘like’ something they’ve posted.

The very open nature of Twitter, allowing almost anyone to see almost anything, actually makes privacy easier to maintain, in Alison’s experience.

“Twitter lets us dip in and out of groups very easily, without giving anything away about yourself. It makes a great coffee companion – you can give yourself fifteen minutes to simply watch the tweets roll by and in that time you’ll see something to inspire you, to teach you and to challenge you.”

“Twitter is bite size, with some great tweeters sharing brief, thoughtful posts.”

Talking of privacy, I asked Alison about her views on profile pictures on Twitter, portraits versus logos or images of pets. “Twitter is about connecting,” she said. “It’s always easier to connect with someone you can see, even if it’s just a static photo. Accounts that use logos are always going to need to work harder to build trust, because there’s no human face.”

Will you be taking a coffee break with Twitter?

Perhaps, like me, Twitter is already one of your coffee companions. A virtual staff room, if you like, where you can escape to take a break from workday pressures.

In many ways, Twitter is better than the staff room. With Twitter you can join in without doing anything. Just watch and read. There’s no danger of being disturbed, unless you choose to be. You can easily hop between conversations without causing offence. And you can eavesdrop without worrying what others might think.

We all still need for genuine human contact, with face to face dialogue. But when that’s not available, or when we choose to avoid it, social media, and in particular Twitter, offers an alternative.

So next time someone criticises Twitter for being full of people just talking about their cup of coffee, or sharing a snap of their lunch, don’t just nod in agreement. Respond by commending those people for helping to unlock some of the secret powers of Twitter, by sharing content that’s making a positive contribution to the wellbeing of others.

Thank you to Alison Moore for contributing her experience and expertise to this article. Alison Moore Counselling is based in Poundbury, Dorset

If you would like to know more about how to use Twitter, please get in touch. Call me on 07970 108191, email andrew@writecombination.com or reach me on Twitter at @dorset_social

By Andrew Knowles 

We're now publishing all new social media blog posts on the Dorset Social website

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