From soap operas to Twitter – the root of what hooks us to media

A commentor on Get Real Post recently made this rather timely observation: “Twitter is one of the most indecipherable format[s] of communication ever invented. It’s full of half-conversations and inane ramblings.” True, as it would seem, to the outsider or non-tweep. It does look that way when you check in on your “timeline” infrequently. To be fair to the average tweep, I’d say there actually is a dialogue going on in there. You just need to hook yourself onto it in a more committed way.

What does it take to hook onto the elusive dialogue of the Twitterverse?

To get a good grasp of the actual “dialogue” amongst tweeps going on in that world — the twitterverse — you pretty much need to be tethered to that “feed” of data at least 12 hours a day. And that is what gives Twitter its powerful stranglehold over its users — this “need” to be “in the loop” for most of your waking hours. This fundamental human need to remain connected is a potent emotional hook that’s been exploited brilliantly by “social media”. For its part, Twitter’s unique sticky claim to a chunk of that human neurological condition is in the stroke of genius that went into limiting each burst of communication — each tweet — coming from its users to 140 characters. By forcing its users to keep their tweets short, and glib, it ensures that those who receive it will stay tuned (read, remain logged on) for the next instalment — and the next one, and the next one.

Thus, it seems the active ingredient at work within the legendary hold Twitter commands over the psyches of its users is one that’s been around for some time. It is the same ingredient at work in soap operas and the Philippines’ teleserye (“television drama series” programs). It’s a simple three-step cycle — (1) give consumers of content a small fix, (2) create artificial scarcity, and (3) dangle the prospect of the next fix. Soap operas do just that. We are all quite familiar with how effectively these old-media content delivery formats hooked their audiences. The very same principles these shows apply remain at the core of today’s new “social” media content delivery machines — but dispensed in far more intensive dosages. Twitter applies this principle in its purest form keeping its users hooked despite limiting the content it brokers to just plain text.

Twitter, then, is like a soap opera on steroids. Whereas, Days of Our Lives or The Bold and the Beautiful worked over a 24-hour timeframe and delivered content one-way to its audience, Twitter cycles through the fix-scarcity-dangle loop in timeframes measured in seconds and does so on a fat inter-active two-way pipe of “information”. From being hooked on a 24 hour cycle loop, we’ve gone to routinely hooking onto the fundamentally similar cycles on the Net, albeit ones that work in timeframes measured in seconds.

The human mind has so far not shown any evidence of a limit to its need for such forms of stimulation. And as advances in technology make the mechanisms for satisfying this need more efficient, we are likely to see more interesting forms of human assimilation into an ever bigger media network in the coming years.

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One Comment on “From soap operas to Twitter – the root of what hooks us to media”

  1. Twitter is a good innovation from Information Technology. It has its upside, and downside also. It can be used for instant communication, for you to receive accurate information, for good decisions; or it can be used for gossip. Use it wisely. So that you will not waste your time and money in it…

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