The Human Face of Twitter: An Interview with Susan Murphy

Today, I had the opportunity to interview Susan Murphy, an instructor at Algonquin College and co-owner of Jester Creative, Inc. of Ottawa, Canada.  This morning, while getting my Twitter fix and blearily sipping my first cup of coffee, I stumbled upon a blog post she wrote entitled “Credit Where Credit Is Due” in which she discusses the importance of remembering and considering the people behind the Twitter feed.

Susan Murphy

To me, this personal connection and the appreciation of the skills and ideas of those around us are the most powerful assets Twitter offers its users, and her post really gets to the heart of how important it is to remember that Twitter is more than just tweets. It is a massive network of people. I find that people who don’t follow back, only regurgitating the ideas of others, or never communicate outside of their small inner circle don’t last long on my list of followers. They seem to miss the humanity that lurks at once beneath the surface and in front of our faces. I contacted Susan (@suzemuse), and she was gracious enough to tell me a bit about what inspired her post and her thoughts on Twitter as it fits in the broader knowledge marketplace.

 JK: First, I love your blog post. Why don’t you give us a little background on what you were thinking when you began to write it?

SM: Often, I’m inspired to blog by experiences that happen to me. In this case, while I was enjoying a concert, the fact that the performer was acknowledging his co-writers after every song really struck me. It made the performance not about him, but about his experience as an artist and collaborator. It got me thinking how in the online world, we don’t often spend time acknowledging others…it’s just about getting the messages out as quickly as possible. We forget that every piece of content we share came from someone.

JK: It’s easy to lose sight of the people behind the tweets. Do you feel that this is inherent in constant connectivity?

SM: I actually don’t know that it has as much to do with constant connectivity as it does about our rush to consume as much as possible. We are all so afraid that we’re going to miss out on something, so we just skim and scan and re-post without really taking time to consider the source. We sometimes forget that there are real people behind the avatars. And that it’s worth getting to know more about them.

JK: What are some of your favorite online interpersonal relation tips? What do you want the novice Twitter user to know about connecting on a personal level and sharing credit?

SM: Interacting online and building relationships isn’t hard to do. Just be human, be curious, and most importantly, be interested in other people. And remember, that you’re interesting too. You have a unique perspective because you are a unique person with something to offer the world. So, go into any interaction with those ideas and you’ll succeed.

JK: Finally, what role do you see for Twitter in education and the broader lifelong learning society? What benefits have you seen personally?

SM: Well, I’m a college teacher, and one of the things I teach is communication and social media. So, I spend a lot of time thinking about how tools like Twitter can help and every day I see examples of it, inside my classroom and outside. I see my students who are just graduating interacting online and building communities, connections and businesses with the people they are meeting. I see my adult ed students using these tools to successfully find new customers and provide good service to their existing clients too as well as building their professional networks. For me, personally, I have learned more and created more solid relationships for my business on Twitter than anywhere else.

We just need to remember that social media is not about the tools, it’s about the people and the conversation – and we’ll do well by it.

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