Too Tired to Tweet
Lyndal Curtis, political correspondent of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, on the busy world of Twitterdom
I’m a geek and I’m proud to say so. Not at putting together my own PC, using Linux and coding my own computer programs sort of geek, but a technology-loving and appreciating sort of geek.
I have more technology than a person should need. I’m a relatively early adopter. And I love social media – Facebook, Twitter, blogs, both micro and macro.
I love the fact that the internet gives me a whole new field of expertise to trawl and information to find. It can inform and entertain and surprise. It lets me talk to people I wouldn’t otherwise meet. I find feedback on things I’m writing stimulating and humbling.
Listening to snatches of the Media140 conference on the webstream from Sydney, I found myself in regular agreement with participants on the possibilities in the new media space. My only question is where do people find the time?
For people like me with families and full time jobs, how on earth can we carve out space in our days to take part in the great big global online conversation?
I marvel at people who can twitter during their day and at night, finding interesting titbits to pass on or searching out the profound or newsworthy to comment on. People who read widely of international journals large and small, find the funny bits of You Tube and update their status while uploading photos and videos they have shot and made.
I try to twitter and blog when I can. But when the really interesting things are happening, when news is breaking, I’m doing my job, listening to interviews or doing my own, making calls, reading documents, pulling out grabs, writing leads and stories and talking to producers.
Time out to tweet means time and attention away from the five TV feeds coming into the office. Time away from crafting my script. A phone call not made, a bit of Question Time not heard.
When I’m finished filing for one, two or possibly three of the programmes I work for, any tweets would lose their immediacy. Like walking into a party hours after it had started. Then I’m off home.
I’ve got shopping to do, school notes crumpled at the bottom of school bags to find, uniforms to change, homework to supervise, reading to listen to, attempts to be made to cajole information out of my children about their day and disputes to be resolved – the usual parent multitasking of housekeeper, cook, cleaner, teacher, relationship adviser and UN secretary-general.
If I’m online I’m helping find information about Genghis Khan for the homework, or checking the school websites for information about assemblies I usually end up missing.
Because I obviously like chaos in my life, I’ve foolishly added a renovation to the mix. So I’m also doing things for which I’m vastly unqualified, like deciding whether to paint my house the colour which has the oddest-sounding name of a colour that might actually look good to people who know about these things.
By the time the dinner is done, the kids have had a cursory wash, been put into pyjamas, read to and put to bed (more than once), it’s late. My choice then is tweet or sleep. And I have to tell you that sleep wins almost every time.
And I’m no different to a teacher who spends their days in front of children and their nights marking while managing their own children, or a nurse caring for their patients in the day and their kids at night. I worry that in the rush to social media, in the advocacy for the new way of communicating, that a large slab of people are, like me, simply too busy to take part. How much should we take into account that what we’re reading and responding to and what’s being fed back to us may be missing a large segment of opinion and views from busy people who are juggling jobs and families.
Some mums and dads find space in their day for the i-space. Some mums and dads seem to find extra hours in the day and emerge in the evening unruffled to surf and tweet with intelligence and thought.
I suspect that’s the minority and it’s something I think we should bear in mind when considering how we deal with social media. As journalists, we can now use many platforms to get to many different audiences and we should do so. Not everyone is listening to, watching or reading everything. They never have and they never will.
We should remember those who can’t join us. Like pushing what’s on the web for our audience when a section of the older members who didn’t grow up with computers aren’t online.
And realise that in the fast-paced exchange of information, there are voices not there. They may be interested but they don’t have time to engage.
None of this is rocket science and none of it a new consideration. But in the celebration of social media, I worry about the range of opinions we’re missing out on from people most engaged with a broad cross-section of what happens in Australia: employment, business, schools, the health system, the social benefits system, people who shop, chat and interact with a lot of ordinary things every day.
We should figure out how not to leave them out or at least talk about who’s missing. And if someone can find me four extra hours a day to fit everything in, that would be nice too.
The article first appeared on ABC Online, on November 6.Filed under: Opinion