Why Twitter Is The Ultimate Reality Show

I’m weary of the criticism Twitter receives by late adopters. Almost everyday someone is quick to remind me that social networks are not “real.” Let’s take a moment and explore that critique.

Do you realize that Survivor, the television show that lit the fuse of the reality explosion, is older than You Tube and Facebook? By my count, there are 42 reality shows returning to the network or cable channel near you this summer plus an additional 38 new reality shows set to make their debut.  This makes for a grand total of 80 reality shows airing this summer alone.

Some of the shows are already established hits (Jersey Shore, So You Think You Can Dance, The Bachelorette), but others will literally have to fight or eat their way to rise above the glut of programming.  Here are just a few of the crazy new shows to air:  Mall Cops: Mall of America, Half Pint Brawlers, Food Buddha, Cupcake Wars, and Battle of the Wedding Planners. I’m not making this stuff up.

An objective examination (is that possible?) of titles provide a clue to the continuing success of these shows. No matter how absurd, all contain an aspect of reality. Been to a mall lately, we do need mall cops; the small man complex—big problem; food—we all eat it; the cupcake fad; and who hasn’t experienced a disastrous wedding that some irrational planner thought was perfection. No matter how absurd, we somehow relate to these shows in some skewed way.  (On a sidenote: Our local and national television news are becoming increasingly irrelevant for the opposite reason. The sensationalism and bias of current media exude a sense of unreality and surreal detachment.)

Donald Brown in his seminal study of the Human Universals provides an extraordinary benchmark for quantifying reality. “Human universals” is a term used to refer to behavioral traits common to all normal humans. Brown believes there is an overemphasis in the world on differences among human populations.  While these differences are important to understand and should be appreciated for what they have to offer, he feels that more attention must be paid to the great many things that make all humans similar in order to foster a true sense of unity and oneness in the world.

An examination of this list of universals proves conclusively that Twitter (social networking) is VERY real. In fact, Twitter provides tools to more effectively realize the essence of humanity and her universals. Let’s take a quick look at just a few of the “Twitter” universals.

Socialization — My friend Spence has well documented our neighborhood camaraderie. We refer to our community as the “campus.” Starbucks is the campus coffee shop. Merridees is the student center. Landmark Booksellers is the library. You get the idea. We have weekly campus gatherings, impromptu parties, drinks and wine tastings. We share music, books, grocery items, laughter and tears. In short, we are a society. And this socialization was created by Twitter. I met all of these people first on social networks, which in turn brought us together in real life.

Cooperative Labor — One of my neighbors placed a plea for help on Facebook and Twitter for a neighbor whose house was devastated by our recent flood. When I responded to help, most of the neighborhood was already there tearing out insulation and drywall. My pastor Pete Wilson and his team mobilized thousands of people in Nashville to assist in the flood relief effort primarily through Twitter. Twitterers responding to a tweet for help were able to get a doctor to a woman about to deliver a baby who was stranded in her house surrounded by flood waters. In fact, not only an OB-GYN responded, but also another internist and several nurses.

World View — It doesn’t take long when following someone on a social network to obtain a fairly accurate grasp of their world view. For example, I must admit a guilty pleasure. I find it enjoyable, not to mention entertaining, to look at current photos of high school classmates on Facebook, especially ones that have not quit partying hard since high school, and thinking how much older they look. It is amazing to see how those who have chosen hedonism for their world view have paid such a dramatic physical toll.  But, it is also distressing to see the ones who continue to act out their high-school days for the world to see.

On the flip-side of the coin, Twitter makes it easy to identify people that share your particular world view. What initiated and subsequently bonded the “campus” relationships were the tribal similarities, especially our shared philosophy of life.

Leadership — Just as leaders emerge in real life, so do they on Twitter. As in the real world, social networks provide delineation between alpha and collaborative leaders, between leaders and managers, and between creative and static leaders. An intriguing doctoral thesis could be written about the emergence and power of leaders in the various social networks.

Language — Twitter would not be possible were it not for a real system of words for communication. I continue to marvel at the creative ways 140 characters can be combined to create what is, essentially, a new form of language. The recent practice of  creative utilizations of hashtags is only one example. If not for social networks, most of you “real people” would not be reading this post.

The reality show unfolds twenty-four hours a day about real life on social networks like Twitter and Facebook—raising money for children that need surgery, buying T-shirts for flood relief, prayer requests, the heroic drama of the plane that landed safely in the Hudson, the Presidential campaign, and the BP environmental travesty.

What has made Twitter and social networking real for you?

19 Responses to “Why Twitter Is The Ultimate Reality Show”

  1. Great post Randy! I couldn’t sleep tonight (worrying about my sister-in-law’s husband who was hit by a truck while bicycling. He’s in an induced coma and has a 30% chance of recovery). I came to twitter because the people I follow are spiritual and I find myself being inspired daily. It’s the connection for me. I have a very social life with people from my church, children’s school, etc. But this is bigger. It’s not homogenous.

    I must say, after following some of the “campus” twitterers, I was tempted to move to Franklin. You all make it sound so inviting! Alas, sanity (my husband) prevailed! :)

  2. Great post, Randy. I totally agree. So many of my most significant REAL relationships today started on Twitter.

    Most of all, thanks for introducing ME to Twitter. You are my GOD-twather. ;-)
    Michael Hyatt´s last blog post ..Leadership and Forgiveness- Part 2

  3. What has made Twitter and Social Networking real for me?

    I’m struggling to answer this question with a response different from what you have put forth. I completely agree with each of your points. 100%.

    The only thing I will add is that when I consider who are my closest friends, the ones I go to for support, the ones I share the most meaningful experiences with, they are people who I also connect (& in some cases even met) through some means of Social Networking, especially Twitter.

    I still have very close friends who are not on Facebook or who do not Twitter.
    But, sadly, I am noticing that we are spending less time together, connecting less. In some cases even drifting apart. When we do see each other there is a lot of time spent just trying to catch up and make up for lost time.

    Not so with those I “see everyday.” When we get together, we refer to all that has transpired since we last met. Prayers that were offered and answered. Trips that were taken. Pains endured. Children born, job changes, mission trips taken, movies seen, poetry written, books read. We are then able to launch right into “now” and build upon all these experiences we have already shared together.

    These relationships are very real to me and very very satisfying. Twitter, etc., has made things possible in relationships that were never possible before … like being able to count you and Chris among my very closest friends. I want to thank Twitter for that, but the truth is the thanks go to God.

  4. I moved from my hometown six months ago, for career reasons. It wasn’t a move I particularly welcomed, and the adjustment is still difficult. Though few of my friends/colleagues use Twitter, nearly all of my friends and family are on Facebook. Being able to keep up with one another and support one another through this medium has meant a great deal .. Like Gail Hyatt (who I follow on Twitter, as I do many of the Thomas Nelson Franklin folks), social media has drawn friends closer, even when we can’t be together all the time. We are able to have deeper conversations when we are together in person, because most of the mundane stories have already been told via Facebook.

    Too, following people like the Women of Faith speakers and other (carefully vetted) Christians serves as an inspiration. When I “see” Sheila Walsh twitter hilariously through travel travails and keep not only her sense of humor but her salvation (we fundamentalists are fond of saying “almost lost my salvation on that one”), I have a better foundation for facing the 30 minute, 12-mile drive to work. God’s hand is here, and for that, I too am grateful.

  5. Sorry, this is not my blogpost. I’m not on Twitter and on Facebook. But then I don’t think I’ve ever been negative about Twitter or Facebook? It’s just not my thing that’s all.

    Can I just say another thing? : WE’RE IN THE FINALS! Did you hear me yell from here to you? I guess if I was on Twitter I could have let you know this right away. Oh well. It’s fine with me like this. You would have blocked or deleted me or something like that anyway. Enough from me.
    Bye bye.

  6. Actually, we are NOT in the finals yet! Haha. I wrote it wrong. We’re in the semi-finals. It must be the heat. Yes, blame it on the heat.

    Just thinking how you believe me what I just wrote! Would you believe I am Cinderella and live in a castle, thinking who is this &%@$ yelling his lungs out everytime he runs by? I know, I know, I’m sorry, I’m a tease, my friends tell me I am. I stop now. I won’t tease you anymore, okay?

  7. Randy,
    I did go over the line there, I didn’t realize. I’m sorry.

  8. Great post, Randy. Totally agree, as well.
    Jeff Goins´s last blog post ..Be the Change You Want to See in the World

  9. I was a fairly early adopter of Social networking, and have always been the one my family and friends have made fun of but once the explosion hit I was the one laughing at them jumping on the band wagon that wont go away. I am really excited to see where it goes.

    Thanks for the post and for meeting with my Pastor Mike Glenn. I hope you had a huge impact on him.

    • Thanks, Derek. I totally understand your social networking journey-mine was very similar. And it was a pleasure to hang with Mike. He seems like a great guy.

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