When social media stifle discussion

What a paradox. Social media were supposed to promote and foster discussion, not stifle it, right?

In recent days I’ve more than once participated in a discussion on Twitter that attracts more and more people as it progresses. Excellent! Looks like a universally interesting topic. Lots of great contributions and mind-expanding opinion.

Then we come to a point where there are so many participants that most of Twitter’s 140-character space is taken up by the participants’ @usernames. There’s less and less space for the discussion itself. In the end, the whole conversation stalls when the remaining 30 characters are too little for any sensible comment.

It wasn’t supposed to go like this.

How could we solve this problem? Here are some attempts:

One group ricocheted off to Facebook and created a group there. The group proved popular, with more than 50 members in a couple of days. A problem soon emerged, though—some of the original discussion participants are not on Facebook and didn’t want to join just for the group.

A second group talked about setting up a Google Plus community for continuing their discussion. I’m sensing the same problem as with the Facebook group: some of the original commentators don’t have a Google account, which is required to participate in a Google Plus community. So we’re hitting the same wall again. Do we want to join yet another social media forum? Not forgetting that for those not previously familiar with it have a learning curve ahead.

A third suggestion was to create a hashtag on Twitter. It’s a workable solution, yes, but not without problems. Who’s to create the hashtag? What hashtag? Who has the energy to follow the hashtag when the discussion has been treading water with comments about a dozen characters long for some time already? How to maintain some kind of logic in which reply belongs to which comment?

A fourth solution was suggested: to create a Storify story with wide access. That would be good, because the original tweets would be in chronological order. This otherwise good idea will collapse because it requires that someone goes through the trouble of digging up all the relevant tweets from the firehose and create the story. Who wants to waste that time? And with Storify accounts being personal ones, do the participants want to contribute to someone else’s search ranking?

A fifth alternative might be that somebody starts an open blog, for example on a free blogging platform like WordPress.com or Blogger. You guessed it, problems ahead. How should the blog be set up to enable everyone to participate who is interested in the topic? Who will be the admins of the blog? How to begin a blog post in a way that gives enough background for comments?

Maybe we just have to accept that, especially on Twitter, “discussion” is not much more than a flash in the pan. A short burst that is soon forgotten.

That would be really a pity.

That’s why I’m throwing the ball to you who are more social media savvy than I am. When a Twitter discussion blows up from the original two or three participants, what is a good forum for continuing? Taking into account that:

  • The tweet chain that already exists may be pretty long and should be included somehow
  • Nobody should hit a prohibitively steep learning curve
  • Many people are averse to joining a new social platform
  • There may be some jealousy about who’s going to be the administrator of the continuation solution

I haven’t found the answer yet. Help me! Write your comments and suggestions down there. I’ll summarise them on Twitter to help everyone else with the same problem.

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