Simon Heffer: Missing the Social in Twitter

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Oh, yawn. Yet another newspaper columnist has a go at Twitter and social networking generally.  This time it’s Simon Heffer of the Telegraph, and you can predict the main beats of the article: shallow, pointless, empty…

At least he avoids the trap of talking about celebrity use of Twitter and focusing on that as the model of use. But he then plunges head-first into the pit beyond, the one marked “misunderstands conversation as publication”. And that, in the simplest terms, is how and why so many journalists misunderstand so much of social media. The look at the work “media” and think publication, without thinking how important the adjectival use of “social” is in that context. For all its horrible buzzword connotations, there is real meaning behind the term social media, if only the people who decry it for its shallowness would pause for a few moments to think it through. But then, perhaps they’re handicapped. Having spent decades doing nothing but publishing, the idea that conversation might happen in text form appears to be a mite challenging for them.
Still, if the “social networking is shallow” meme has hit Heffer, it’s probably all but played out in traditional media. And you never know, in five years or so, he might be writing compelling interviews with its major practitioner, just as he did a few weeks back with [Tina Brown and the Daily Beast](, a news site which clearly has its origins in the blogging age.
*(I’d just like to say a quick thank you to [Ian Douglas]( of the Telegraph Media Group, who dropped me an e-mail with a link to the Tina Brown interview, after I complained on Twitter about its lack of an online presence a few days after it was published in the dead tree edition.)  *
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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.