Twitter and Information Processing Theory

It is interesting to ponder just how we take in and process the wealth of information that we are bombarded with on a daily basis. Living in the age of information, or misinformation, that we currently find ourselves in it is important to make the best use of our limited time. In order to do this skimming over things is not an issue of laziness, but rather an essential tool of productivity.

Let’s examine Twitter for instance. According to Digital Marketing Ramblings, the average Twitter user follows 208 people and spends 170 minutes a month accessing the site. Now I’m sure as one of the numbers increases the other number increases as well, yet it provides a good ratio for judgment. Unless you are sitting at a computer 24-7 and monitoring your Twitter timeline that entire time, there is no way that you can be reading every single tweet that the people you follow put out there. So how does one determine the worthwhile tweets from amidst all the drivel?

The answer I believe lies in a communication theory that first emerged in the 1950s, long before Twitter was even a conceivable idea. Information processing theory is an audience theory that concentrates not so much on the media itself, but rather what we do with that media. In information processing theory our minds our flooded with so much stimuli and different messages, that our mind acts like a computer and filters out the messages that we do not really need. This happens on a subconscious level that our mind has been trained to do without us even knowing it.

Information processing theory believes our mind not so much determines the good information, but more importantly avoids the useless information. There are so many different messages being put out there that on a conscious level we simply cannot handle everything that is out there for us to consume. This is especially applicable to Twitter.

There is no way that one could read every single tweet that every person they follow puts out. This is especially applicable when one is sleeping. Upon awaking a user might open up their Twitter account and there would be a plethora of tweets that took place while they were getting their much needed sleep. The timeline in instances such as these would be merely quickly skimmed. While one’s mind is not reading every tweet, the mind is subconsciously processing the information and stopping the scrolling and alerting the user to anything that might seem especially useful.

I believe that it would be quite interesting to conduct some research into this applicability. This research I think could be best conducted by inserting some sort of monitoring software on different user’s accounts that would show you a rate of scrolling coupled against the tweets that made them stop the scrolling and click. The rate of scrolling would be essential because it would show you just how fast they were going. I would speculate that most of the time it’s at such a speed that there is no way the person could be consciously processing the amount of tweets passing before their eyes.

Unlike a lot of mass communication theories, information processing theory it seems is becoming even more relevant as we progress through the digital age of media. It really is quite amazing that a theory such as this that was first developed before we had even really hit the age of television, can be so applicable to modern social media. It goes to show you though, that the more things change the more things stay the same. Our technology is not so much producing new media, but rather producing new avenues that distribute the same messages.

Frank Fitton

Frank Fitton

Frank currently resides in West Palm Beach, FL and attends Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL. He previously attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL. He has covered sports for both schools newspapers and written for numerous websites on a variety of topics. Frank has been active in social media for businesses for the past 6 years running the accounts of everything from a debt management company to an adult nightclub. In his free time he enjoys college football, golf, art, and films.
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