What Can Twitter Teach Me?
Traditional media has discovered Twitter. So what? As Jay Moonah tells us in his recent podcast, and here I am paraphrasing him according to my own interpretation, Twitter takes committment. I don’t care if you are Oprah or Ashton or Ellen. Are you willing to engage or just exploit the tool for what you think is short term gain? And then once you’ve stepped on the track and discovered that it’s a long distance run, do you have the time or energy to make it worth the while for yourself and the twitter communities you are now part of? I didn’t think so. Because, if you agree with Jay, you have to be an electronic media junkie. You have to spend the time learning how to speak in 140 character chunks and still have meaningful discourse. You have to be willing to explore the new community and determine what value it has for you and others. You have to know what you want to accomplish, like Yoko Ono seems to. There is a lot of give and take in Twitter conversations. And a certain lightness of being. Depending on how many tweeters you follow, and how often you look at your tweets, you could have an overwhelming number of separate conversations and tweets to take in. This can be a daunting proposition to some.
The first time I received more than 200 tweets between tweet sessions, I panicked. How was I ever going to keep up? If I didn’t find a solution fast, I knew that I would become a twitter casuality in no time. There is no way I can devote the same time to twitter discourse as I do to other things in my life. I panicked publicly with a tweet to that effect. To which kaymatthews responded with:
Most excellent advice. If I want to get the most from Twitter then I had better not treat it so seriously and really that is what Twitter became for me. A fun way to engage in repartee, gay and otherwise. I get to react to whatever I want at whatever point I enter the discussion. Or I can ignore every tweet and push information that I think my twitter community might be interested in. Or hell. Just push out something that interests only me.
I’ll tell you something else I have noticed. I have observed from my year and a half of being involved in Twitter that it is impossible to sustain a flame war. Although it may seem easier to say sarcastic and mean things in 140 characters it is even harder to keep it up. Perhaps that is because it takes a lot of energy to stay angry. Angry people usually need a lot of space to build and maintain their justification for being angry. And furthermore if you persist, I have the power to unfollow and block you.
Because I know I am dropping into something already and always in progress it is vitally important that if my comments lack social import, then at least let me be saying something to improve or brighten both of our days. Of course this is only one tweeter’s story. Some tweeters have a daily routine. They greet us all every morning with a hale and hardy “top of the morning to you”, followed by the ingredients of their muesli. Then many hours later they let us know they are turning in with a “night twittersphere”. As a ninja, I prefer to drop in unannounced and leave just as quietly and unobstrusively having left my mark. Everyone has their own particular style. I often have to remember that some people and organizations are actually using it to communicate their cause or product to what they hope is a wide audience that can in turn influence others.
Given all these factors, what can Twitter teach me? I think it has taught me that, unlike e-mail, there is an implicit agreement that reading tone, especially a negative one, into a tweet, is a recipe for conversational disaster. An open mind is a must for tweeting. If we don’t understand each other that’s ok. Move on. It’s a tweet, not a relationship. And that open mind also means I will expose myself, if I am lucky, to someone else’s experience that is different from mine. And perhaps a way of looking at something I did not consider before. I don’t have to be committed to meaningful discourse. I can just have fun. You know, for the long haul.
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