Twitter, visitors and residents – were it ever so humble, is it home?

there is a visitors vs. residents issue here (to borrow David White’s categorisation of online users). Twitter is a tool for residents. It’s about people being immersed. It’s about people “living a percentage of their life online“. When visitors get hold of Twitter they see it as a tool to get a job done when the need arises

Andy Powell makes a passing, tongue-in-cheek comment about the world having two kinds of people. Here he means Twitter visitors and Twitter residents. But he jokes about two other kinds of people: those who divide the world into two kinds of people and those who don’t. My knees jerk when presented with binaries, and the Internet, of which Twitter is but a part is too complex for binary classification systems, though they may remain useful for discussion purposes. With Twitter there are all sorts of residents and all sorts of visitors. I am reminded of Vermont, a pleasant, hilly, rural, poor corner of northern New England in the US, where tourism is an important industry. Since the 19th century visitors came from the sweltering coastal cities of New York, Boston and Philadelphia in the summer, spawning the term “summer people”. Summer people owned houses or rented but left when the cool nights turned cold and their homes (and school and work) called. But, some liked it up north so much they stayed spawning the term “all-year summer people”: no more rooted than the migrant visitors. Some all-year summer people had kids and raised them in Vermont. Were they local? “Just because a cat has kittens in the oven, don’t make them biscuits,” said the locals, and gave rise to “second-generation summer people”.

There are all kinds of Twitter residents: those who follow celebrities and those who don’t; those who protect their profile (all year summer people as far as I am concerned) and those who don’t; those who strive for thousands of followers, those who use it for research, those for whom it is purely frivolous. And, there are all sorts of visitors. There are the coach tours and the backpackers; new-age travellers and tourists; travel writers and thse who send postcards home. For a lot of us Twitter is our postcard home, and a little like the turtle’s shell: a piece of home we carry with us.

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