Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Twittering Barcelona

Twitter.  It seems everyone is doing it: politicians, sports figures and normal joes.  Pick up an English paper or visit a website, and your bound to find some article about the new Facebook as it's been called, or a link to the corresponding twitter account. At least it seems everywhere except Spain.

When I talk to my Spanish friends or students and ask them about the twitter revolution, most offer a blank stare and shrug their shoulders.  They haven't a clue what it is.  When I tell them, it's a site where people inform the world what they're doing in 140 words or less, their expressions change to a bemused curiosity.  "People sit in front of a computer all day and tell strangers what they're doing?  Why not go to a bar and chat with someone who cares?" they'll say, which is tough logic to argue with.

In many ways the whole concept of social networking and e-commerce is as foreign to a Spaniard as automatic cars.  They know it exists and they might know a few people who do it, but in general, it's not something that's common.  Now, before I get a deluge of comments saying I'm depicting Spain as a backwards country from the twentieth century, that's not the point I'm trying to make.  I have Spanish friends on Facebook and they update their profiles, but not nearly with the frequency or proficiency of my English and American friends, who can put up five to six posts a day.  As for Twitter, I know not one person.

Most of the reason is cultural, rather than lack of Internet savvy, I think.  Spanish people are a sociable lot who like face-to-face interaction and spending days outside.  Sitting at home in front of a computer and typing away to some stranger is like an Englishman going to a pub and drinking non-alcoholic beer - it goes against who they are as a people.  Same thing goes for online shopping, where the purpose isn't just to buy something, but see it, feel it, ask 100 questions about it, and then get together with friends and/or family and have a coffee or lunch.  As for summarizing something in 140 words or less, Spaniards would have trouble with a 500 word limit given their propensity to talk and explain, which isn't a criticism, just an observation.  And if you don't believe me: ask a Spaniard how their day was and time how long it takes them to finish - you'll be lucky if it's under five minutes.

Personally, I find getting out and talking to people on the street refreshing, and this is from someone with borderline antisocial disorder.  Perhaps it's the romantic in me, but we seem to be losing the sense of community that we once had when we know someone in another country better than our neighbor.  As for anyone with twitter.  You can follow this blog: @frombarcelona1

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    interesting to read about how Spanish people have adapted the new media landscape. Me (@lindapierre) and my boyfriend (@tomasnihlen) just moved from Stockholm to Barcelona. We started using Twitter for our company @urbanlifestyle back in 2007 when it all began. Then it wasn't that common at all in Sweden but these last 6 months it has been a real "hype". A lot of entrepreneurs use it but also artists, media, writers and lots of other types of organisations use Twitter as well.

    Maybe Spanish people will start using it more when they see that it can be used in so many ways. For following news, when accidents happens and people are on the "scene" etc etc.

    Look at the list of the Twitter users I follow and you'll find quit a lot of Spanish Twitter users. Also a tip is to go to and search for a certain city or country.