Thanks For The Retweet!

In 2010, Twitter introduced the retweet button to encourage Twitter users to retweet and to share articles, posts, and pages. This retweeting option was designed to make conversations on Twitter easier and more convenient for users. But the actual truth about whether or not this new feature is making it easier for Twitter users to stay connected through engaging in conversations with each other is debatable. In Boyd, Golder, and Lotan’s article, “Tweet, Tweet, Retweet: Conversational Aspects of Retweeting on Twitter” the authors use data samples to analyze how retweeting differs in style, motivation and content from traditional tweets. Through a structured analytical framework, the authors are able to analyze the implications that retweeting has on conversational practices and engagements. The authors state that “retweeting is an important practice to analyze because of the larger issues it raises concerning authorship, attribution, and communicative fidelity,” (Boyd, 1). Twitter aims to creative a public platform for people to engage in conversations, but although participation engagement is endless, the retweet button oftentimes creates an ambiguity among users.

The authors observe that the retweeting and re-broadcasting of messages among Twitter users provides a platform for engagement, even though the structure of the retweeted messages has become less orderly and organized for users. Through case studies and interviews, the authors are able to explore how the act of retweeting can be seen as a conversational practice, despite the fact that this act can be seen as a little unstructured and disorderly because the rights of authorship, and attribution are unclear. It seems to me, that the authors address some of the issues surrounding retweeting, but seem to agree that retweeting is still an engaging and conversationalist practice. In a recent article titled “Friends Don’t Let Friends ‘Retweet’ #FF Shoutouts”, by Bridget Willard, Willard argues that retweeting can be seen as less engaging. The article explains that “pressing a button does not constitute engagement. It is just noise” (Willard). Willard argues that Twitter alerts you if someone has retweeted you by displaying a list of who retweeted you, but it does not allow you to respond to them without having you click on their profile and sending them a new tweet. By incorporating the #FF mention, that is sought to “recognize the tweeters they follow in a online event known as Follow Friday…it is a way of sharing with the world that they not only approve of their tweet content, but hope you will follow them on Twitter, as well” (Brandon De Hoyos). Willard believes that the #FF mentions are not a respectable way of engaging and thanking twitter users because they are not sincere and meaningful means of communication. I think that Boyd, Golder, and Lotan’s article could be updated in light of Willard’s argument because Willard argues that retweeting can be seen as impersonal. When someone chooses to retweet something, rather than thanking the person for doing so, some Twitter users are opting to use the #FF hashtag to acknowledge the original Tweeter, but Willard believes that this is not creating a meaningful engagement between the Twitter users, and that it is not an appropriate form of thanks. Boyd, Golder, and Lotan view retweeting as an effective means of communication, although it lacks an organized structure in terms of authorship, attribution, and communicative fidelity, but they do not address the belief that retweeting can be seen as un-engaging for Twitter users. By people retweeting, there is a loss of communicative engagement among users, because as the messages get passed along and retweeted between people, the intimacy and relationship between the message and the Tweeter is lost. You may be engaging with someone else’s content, but does that mean you are engaging with the person?  I think this is an interesting question to address, and I would be curious to see how Boyd, Golder and Lotan would address and explore this question as well. It may be interesting to see what these authors would have to say about retweeting being anti-communicative because the retweets often do not thank or relate back to the original tweeter. That being said, I do think that the authors lay down a great foundation through textual analysis about the construction and uses of Twitter and the art of the retweet.

Through examining the article “Tweet, Tweet, Retweet,” the authors provide valuable information about the art of retweeting, and why and how retweeting has become a new social media phenomenon, which is important to know when studying the culture of social media. In a video posted by a Californian rock band, We are Scientists, they put a comical spin on the art of retweeting. The group explains that retweeting is helpful and an advantage for communicating with fans, and it shows that a message can travel and be retweeted to many Twitter users. But in a way, this video agrees with Boyd, Golder and Lotan’s article because the authors explain that “retweeting brings new people into a particular thread, inviting them to engage without directly addressing them” (1). This entertaining and humorous video underlines the vitality and importance that retweeting has on society and social media culture. By examining this video, along with the Boyd, Golder, Lotan and Willard articles, one can develop a new perspective on the retweeting phenomenon, as well as understand the significance and power that Twitter has on society and culture in general.

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One comment

  1. I have to disagree with WIllard’s analysis that retweeting is not engaging. Although retweeting may not necessarily start a conversation with the original tweeter, retweeting still engages followers and the greater SNS, exactly as the creators intended. As silly as We Are Scientists’ video is, I don’t think it discounts the validity of the retweet function. I really liked the one guy’s comment that retweeting “is like passing on a good book to a friend,” because that’s exactly how I think of retweeting. Sometimes the people I follow have something great to say that I think my other followers will appreciate. I won’t say the function isn’t abused, (when celebrities retweet their fans too much I often unfollow) but in that instance especially, a retweet is undoubtedly engagement between two users. When the fan sees a notification in their “connect” section that they got a celebrity retweet, it shows that their tweet was acknowledged and deemed worthwhile enough to be shared with others.

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