Breaking The News On Twitter

I honestly and truly wonder what it is that motivates many of you to be the 7,657,423,012th person to tweet a news item.

Do you really think that you’re the first to tell your friends and social network that Steve Jobs resigned? Or that Google acquired a Motorola division?

Do you not scan at least a few tweets in your Twitter stream to see if anybody else tweeted the “breaking” news you’re itching to share with the world?

Does being redundant and useless not bother you?

It would be one thing if you were linking to a source that maybe not everybody read (I linked to Josh Bernoff’s blog post, so maybe I’m guilty as charged as well). But when you link to a HuffPo or TechCrunch article, you’re providing a link to the same story that 7,173,147,882 people before you did.

I have a theory that addresses the wonder I expressed above: Attention-deficit disorder.

No, not like the medical community defines it. Not “the co-existence of attentional problems and hyperactivity.”

No, I mean attention-deficit as in: Doesn’t get enough attention, and needs to call attention to oneself.

If you’ve got other theories explaining this behavior, let me know. I really do want to hear them. Because I honestly believe that if I better understand this behavior, maybe it won’t drive me as crazy as it does.


20 thoughts on “Breaking The News On Twitter

  1. I think your attention theory, “Doesn’t get enough attention, and needs to call attention to oneself”, is highly likely true. Of course, we can say that about our very need to tweet, checkin, etc.


  2. Rags: I think it’s generally true of tweeting, in general. But I think checking-in is driven by other motivations, like….oh, forget it. You’re right.

  3. Gee! Guilty, even this morning about the Jobs news… And I too get annoyed by people who do it!! Add also those who keep the hashtags when they retweet something. What’s funny is that most people hear it from either a) traditional media or b) online media who themselves heard it from traditional ones. And they say TV/radio/papers are dead…

    So, I promise never tweet news again… (I’ll find the attention I crave somewhere else, since anyway, you’re the only person who really follow me on Twitter)

  4. It’s group inclusion, just like wearing brand-name clothing with a slogan across your chest.

  5. Valeria: Good point. As Ariely says in the book:

    “Regardless of what we create…much of what really matters to us is that it is our creation. As long as we create it, we tend to feel rather certain that it’s more useful and important than similar ideas that other people come up with.”

    And, of course, people are wrong to believe that. Because we all know that what I come up with is better and more important than what everybody else does. 🙂

  6. Here’s the issue I have:

    Yes, real-time access to news has never been greater or easier to find.

    Yes, it gets a little tedious when people retweet and retweet and retweet.

    But that’s the medium. Live with it.

    An anecdote I heard recently and genuinely can’t remember where:

    Someone wrote their local TV station about the fact that said TV station ran repeats of “The Flintstone’s” regularly. “Why show the Flintstone’s? Everyone’s already seen the Flintstone’s!” this person said. The owner/head of programming at this TV station replied publicly via an open letter in the paper.

    “Every day, someone is born who hasn’t seen The Flintstone’s,” he said. And he was right – every day, things happen about which certain people would never know or understand until they heard it from the crowd or from one of their close-kept opinion leaders. You might get the news a number of ways, you might hear it so much you get sick of hearing it. But by your logic, everyone should hear about everything the same way (which will never happen) and then we should all stop talking about it. Imagine how far news of JFK’s assassination would have gotten had everyone relied on one point source and never talked about it again. “Hey, Cronkite! Shut up about it, already! I already heard from the guy at the grocery store and I don’t want ANY more details or opinion!”

    And yes, I think “ADD”, as you’ve put it, is the cause of a lot of the white noise in new media. But I also think that saying nobody should comment on, rebroadcast or disagree with what they hear is stupid.

    My way of “explaining this behavior”? Humans want kinship and they want people to know they’re aware of things as a way of showing they’re alive and somewhat coherent.

  7. JM: You wrote: “Humans want kinship and they want people to know they’re aware of things as a way of showing they’re alive and somewhat coherent.”


    Then tell me WHAT YOU THINK about the breaking news, not that THERE IS breaking news.

    When the 13 billionth person tweets about a news item, how is that a demonstration that “they’re alive” or “somewhat coherent”.

    The absence of an opinion or insight on the news item is more likely to make me the tweeter is more of a bot than a human.

  8. Follow fewer bots or follow less bot-like people. They’re RT-ing things because they’re desperate to say something, they’re just not articulate enough to write something original. So, if you’re miffed at those people, unfollow them. Go follow someone else who DOES have something interesting to say.

    If you are more likely to believe that someone is a bot than a human, you have your litmus test. Unfollow those people. Exercise your own admittedly-limited degree of control over what you read.

  9. I’d rather try to “change the world” than “give up on it.” Will continue to try and educate people to think about “adding value to the conversation” when they tweet. Seems to me to be the better course of action than simply throwing in the towel and unfollowing them.

  10. You have a very valid point Ron, and I think it all depends on how you (or people you are connected to) use social channels. While I agree that the flurry of tweets that happen around certain ‘news’ events can get old quick (I probably pushed out at least a dozen Jobs related links myself in the past 24 hours), news posts can be filtered out by using lists or other tools, or by simply walking away from the social data fire hose for a time. Sharing ‘news’ is indeed connected to being part of the overall reaction to the event itself (but not necessarily to focus attention to oneself, or to generate traffic to one’s blog, though there has been plenty of that in this case). When I saw the Jobs news, it was through a post on LinkedIn, and my initial reaction was that it was fake (since many people assumed that such an announcement would only occur if he were gravely ill, which may very well be the case). To validate authenticity, I proceeded to find related stories and match it to more official posts from larger media outlets. Since there wasn’t much information outside of the resignation letter, the only related stories tended to be Jobs legacy related stories that are like catnip to Apple fan boys like me. Since I tend to use Twitter as a way to share what I am reading, I pushed out several links to stories I found interesting over the past 24 hours. While I know that may annoy some people that use Twitter or other social channels differently, my followers tend to follow me for my content curation. When something this big occurs in tech, you are going to see the same links pushed out millions of times. It’s just the nature of new media, and that adds to the social nature of the story itself. Your post (and previous ranting on the topic) does cause me to reflect a bit though…the next time I am pushing out content that I know is widely shared, I will try to add more to the narrative (sometimes though, I wonder how that is really any different than just trolling for additional look-at-me clicks). We may never know the entire story of yesterday’s news, but the total volume of social sharing around Jobs departure as Apple’s CEO demonstrates its significance. In this case, I think the volume is justified, but the next time Google purchases a company or Zuck pisses off Facebook users, maybe I’ll think twice before I click on that Retweet button. @leimer

  11. There’s a big difference between saying what YOU want to say, and saying what OTHERS want/need to hear. In a B2B or B2C capacity, no one cares what you ate for lunch or that you were just in a earthquake. In a professional context, no one is tuning in to your Twitter account to get off-topic news.

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