June 25, 2009

What barkeepers, taxi drivers and shrinks have in common

In this entry on Capgemini's technology blog, Rick Mans ponders on our strange social behavior in elevators, buses, trains and other public spaces. Most of us (I am one of the exceptions...) won't start conversations with the strangers they share the elevator with. And yet, on Twitter we share our complete life story with people we have never even physically met. This is strange, because in the elevator, we actually see the people and can better judge their willingness to chat.

Rick is right, this ís strange. And what adds to this oddity is that many people don't have any difficulty starting conversations with barkeepers and taxi drivers they have never met before. People with these professions hear people's deepest confessions (okay, alcohol has a slight part in this). I guess barkeepers and taxi drivers are just very good listeners by nature and somehow radiate that.

Another explanation for this could be that people with these professions listen to so many people that you have become practically anonymous. They will have completely forgotten about you once you are out of their sight.

Conclusion 1: we are forthcoming to those who will most likely forget about us

And what about shrinks? We willingly pay them large amounts of money (which is often covered by your health insurance) so we can share our most private secrets with them.

Conclusion 2: we are forthcoming to those who are paid to maintain our privacy.

How do these conclusions translate back to twitter? Well, on twitter we are perhaps less forthcoming but a lot more chatty. There are so many people on twitter that it is very difficult to be heard above the din. You can tweet just about anything personal and will hardly be noticed because your tweet will get lost in the crowd. If you want to be noticed by a significant number of people, you need to tweet about hot (popular or controversial) subjects.

That doesn't make Twitter as useless as I just made it seem. I use Twitter myself for channeling generic and not too personal wonders and ponders. And you often get very surprising and insightful responses, which is what makes Twitter useful and fun. I am much more forthcoming on facebook, where I only allow my friends to read my updates.

As for the second conclusion: would you pay for an online service (cloud based) where you could pour out your heart? Maybe we should put good old LISA on twitter. Or you could unburden yourself with Liza. Give it a go and then share your experience with me (you can trust me...).

1 comment:

Diederik said...

Hmm interesting stuff... yet, the difference is that a conversation in a cab, bar etc MUST start otherwise you do not get the service...

Next, barkeepers and cabdrivers are in myu opinion also the kind of people that are open to talk (if they have time or speak your language...)

And then there is this thing about comparing 'real' life, and the 'digital' life... everybody is always comparing these to... but I believe these could be, I don't say they are, complete different lives... ;-)