My name is Sarah, and I have a Twitter problem.
I actually think Twitter is freaking awesome, and love it and love using it – to the point where sometimes I have to say to myself, “Step away from the Twitter.” It’s almost a default for me – email, Twitter, web.
I can think of a few dozen of examples of how Twitter has connected me to people and information I never would have known about if I hadn’t been signed on, and I haven’t been using it that long, either. I can remember when I first signed up and had NO IDEA what to do with it. The whole “What are you doing?” question gave me the chuckles: “I’m watching the market recap, and drinking an import!” Heh. What are YOU doing, Twitter?
Holy crapdamnhell, Twitter is doing a lot. I prefer Twitter to Facebook because while Facebook is an enclosure, Twitter is a platform. In Facebook, you communicate through Facebook. Facebook is the destination and the confinement: the conduits are all Facebook, and while you can link to other stuff, most of the time, you’re following links to other parts of Facebook. You don’t have to leave Facebook, either. It’s all in there – and they want you to stay put. You don’t need anything other than Facebook. Do not look away from the Facebook. Facebook is all you need. There is nothing other than Facebook.
Sorry, what was I saying?
With Twitter, the platform encourages you to leave and come back – if you want to. There are links to other sites to read, discussions about those links, and conversations that can get larger or smaller, or move off Twitter entirely. Twitter is the connection between people without the confinement of Facebook. Thus, I love it. I like the option of expansion and freedom. I get antsy at the idea of not having expandable memory slots, even if I don’t use them. Don’t fence me in. I get crabby.
This is not to say that Twitter is perfect. Sometimes the things I learn about or hear about on Twitter are so interesting, I can’t focus on what I actually have to do. It’s very, very easy for Twitter to make me feel overwhelmed. There’s so much to think about, as Courtney Milan said to me, I run out of time for the things I have to accomplish in my real life. So much information is broadcast on Twitter, I don’t have time for it all, and have to not only bookmark things for later but then remember to go back and read them. But so much of what I find is useful, and would have remained undiscovered otherwise. Actually, thanks to Twitter, I found out about the Firefox plugin Read It Later, as part of a discussion about what to do when there’s too much excellent information and not enough time in the day.
Chances are, though, I don’t use Twitter entirely correctly. I don’t auto follow. I will not follow more people than I can actually keep track of. I see Twitter users who are following 100, 200, a few hundred thousand people, and I cannot do that. There’s no way. I get confused when I follow too many people, and some of the folks I follow tweet once a week or only in the morning, so my follow list is a mix of low and high traffic Tweeters. I do read the Tweets from people who I don’t follow using the web interface at twitter.com, but it’s the difference between reading a blog sporadically and subscribing to its feed. Sometimes prefer to catch up in digest form, rather than have my “Friends” column updating with 15+ tweets every 3 minutes. I can’t keep up with that many words at a time.
There are one-way tweetstreams that I adore – there’s one for NJ Family magazine that posts about activities all over New Jersey for different aged children. On a Saturday morning, that tweetstream is a goddam goldmine. There’s another that Colleen Lindsay just introduced me to, Blazed and Confused, which tweets line from Harlequin Blazes, and the hilarious quotient is muy muy grande.
I’m kind of fascinated by how people use Twitter, and the ways in which my use of Twitter is so different from other people’s. Personally, Twitter is a tool for me to communicate as much as it is a tool for me to learn from others. I need to be able to listen and I need to be able to talk and respond. Twitter needs to be useful for me as a channel of information and conduit for connection, and if I follow too many people, I can’t keep track. It becomes a blur of information, and I don’t get much of anything out of it because it’s so much I block it all out. Twitter is incredibly powerful for me, but not if it’s a blur of chatter that I have to force myself to mine for significance.
I love Kirk Biglione‘s analogy that Twitter is like the best cocktail party ever, with people you’re dying to meet and talk to – it’s totally apt. But I don’t particularly like big cocktail parties. I don’t like crowds. I get exhausted by small talk. More often than not, I’m the one in the corner with a drink having a very happy full-on genuine conversation with 1-2 people, doing my damnedest not to count how many people are in the room. Whether a crowd is actual or virtual, a big crowd gives me twitchypants and I want to enjoy Twitter, much like I’d like to enjoy the best cocktail party ever.
That doesn’t mean I don’t want to talk to people. I do try to reply whenever someone speaks to me. I love having conversations with new people, even if I can’t sign on to follow them all. The simplicity of Twitter and the ease with which I can enter or listen and learn from a conversation is fan-freaking-tabulous, but not if there’s so much coming at me at once that I can’t keep it all straight.
I received an email this weekend from someone who mentioned that she had to un-follow an author on Twitter whose stream was nothing but book promotion, without any invitation or even opportunity to reply except with admiration. I can understand finding that bothersome – I get plenty of advertising thrown at me. I don’t need to subscribe to more. I know there are a ton of authors still trying to figure out how to use Twitter for promotional use without seeming like they’re nothing but promo (hey, have you seen Booksquare University Tweet Camp?) but also without losing six years of their life responding to everyone on Twitter. Figuring out how to make Twitter work for you can be a challenge, and I’m still negotiating with it.
How do you use Twitter? Do you like it? What more do you wish you could do?