Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Why does retweeted stuff turn me off?

Here's some self-disclosure for you.  I find when I am following particular Twitter topics (for instance "Behavioural Economics"...yes, I am that nerdy) I start to ignore tweets that have been incessantly retweeted.  This is contrary to the Behavioural Economics principle of herding ie we go where others are.  So if my fellow Twitterites are actually helping me sort out which content is of most interest in the marketplace, what on earth is behind my irrational shunning of these tweets?

I think it comes down to hard coded arrogance.  I want to have discovered it myself - the fact that others have retweeted it en masse diminishes my sense of uniqueness, and uniqueness is a central part of our identity. There's a part of us that wants to be the black sheep.  Turning up to a party in the same dress as the host, ordering the same meal at a restaurant as someone else, excitedly telling a friend of an App you've discovered only for them to turn around and say they knew about it days ago, these are things that niggle at our sense of uniqueness. 

I also think I am caught in the old content filtering mindset where you would read the source (eg newspaper article) and from there on, related strands of material would be supplementing that original piece through editorial or review.  With retweets, there is usually no value add beyond distribution and so I find my interest level is subdued rather than activated.  It's dilution rather than illumination.  The related behavioural concept at play here is vividness, where we tune into things that are more striking.  Reweets undermine vividness through their sheer domination of the topic feed.

I'm interested in your reaction to retweeted topics and whether you likewise 'turn off' from reading some content because of its popularity?  Drop me a comment (and I look forward to you retweeting this piece!).

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  1. Great post. I completely skim over people who aren't usually in my feed, knowing they've been re-tweeted.

    I suppose intentional blindness could be taken into consideration too.