Sunday 20 November 2011

What is twitter to me?

Twitter's "Fail Whale" (displayed during outages)
has now become almost as ubiquitous
as the Microsoft "Paperclip" once was.

I'm not even entirely sure why I'm writing this when I'm fairly sure that the only people who ever read this blog are on twitter already!

However, it's becoming abundantly clear to me that to "get" it you have to be in it.
It's like the Matrix; you have to see it for yourself. So I guess I felt I would try to put into words what twitter is for me.

Twitter is a cross between Facebook and an instant messaging platform; you are limited to 140 characters, so updates tend to be concise. I think what people don't get is the social bit of the social network aspect of twitter. It is honestly one of the most supportive environments I have ever experienced, it is as involving as you let it become and is much more than simple status updates.

Because everything on twitter is public (other than direct messages and messages from protected accounts) it’s a very open environment, because of the way it works you can see conversations between the people you “follow” take place in front of you. In this way you can jump in when appropriate (and sometimes not so appropriate). 

It very much has the feeling of being in a pub or a coffee shop with conversations taking place all around you; you can pick up and drop conversations more easily than in real life.
In my opinion, the absolute key to a successful relationship with twitter is numbers. If you follow less than about 60 people (and by people I do not mean celebrities) you just don’t get the interactions that make it work.

In order to know who to follow I would suggest simply ask someone who you already follow, if you’re completely new to twitter and have no ideas then maybe do a search on subjects that interest you, as your circle of followers and followees opens up you will probably need a client like Tweetdeck or Seismic to enable you to be able to truly experience it.

Twitter is like all the best and worst parts of social interactions, except there’s less rules to stop you having to endure the bad bits!

At this point I really wouldn’t be without it, I get most of my news from it (albeit I wait until someone like Reuters or the Beeb posts about it before believing it at face value) you learn what you can trust, same as with any other form of media.

 I tend to be better informed about current events than I used to be, however, there is the slight issue of being too connected, a twitter buddy once wrote a blog post about the difficulty in “switching off” (see @Puffles2010) and I understand the issue only too well; however, I feel that in general the benefits massively outweigh the bad bits.

What I do find is that other people just don’t understand why I am so taken with what seems to them to be a social network akin to Facebook or something, which seems to be filled with subversive political monsters or narcissistic celebrities (how the “mainstream media” tend to portray it) possibly dependant on the day of the week and the wind direction as far as I can tell.

I think one of the most important points about twitter is that it is, like life, what you make it, however, I really love the interconnectedness of this interface.
And yes, if I’m honest, it does feel a bit like being part of Borg v 0.00000.00027 but you know what? Bring it on! What could possibly go wrong? *winky face*

Am I completely insane to feel like I am part of a huge network people connected by ideas and art and humour and politics and TV or not? What do you think?


  1. I think it's great that twitter has been marvellous for you, however, I feel rather differently about it. I have an account, and that's as far as I go with it. It's all a bit confusing for me. :)

  2. I understand it might not be for everyone, If you ever want a hand with explanations and follow suggestions etc. I'm more than willing. Thanks for the comment my love! Much appretiated x

  3. I love it. I'm so glad I started using it, due to being poorly and stuck in a lot and having massive social anxiety - it's a good format for me. I'm getting to chat with artists, scientists, activists, writers, people in the same boat as me and people in utterly different boats. Across the globe. It's staggering. I don't know why, but people supporting people with mental health problems is bizarrely good - with all the freedoms it is surprising that it can be a safe space in the virtual world. I know that's not 'a safe space' for lots of people who get attention from trolls etc. but for a little fish like me, it's amazing when it works.

  4. We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile

  5. Twitter IS for everyone. Whether they choose it or not. It has chosen YOU.

  6. well for someone who spends most of their day on Twitter what can I say? heehee

    I love everything about it, have made a best friend from it, met up with loads of others and had a great night out.

    I couldnt be without it, even if some of the people on it drive me insane at times, mostly with laughter :D

  7. I had a brief whirlwind romance with Twitter earlier this year, and yes, I do agree with much of what you say. Having felt very isolated by illness/disability for a long time, it was intoxicating to discover a supportive community of funny, warm, politically engaged people with whom I could share my experience and have a laugh when it all got too absurd. However, I eventually found that the problems outweighed the benefits. My offline life and my Twitter life became incompatible when an important friendship hit serious difficulties and our mutual followers got caught in the middle. I had made an important life decision which he could not cope with (and I had no right to expect him to do so) and for me to remain on Twitter would just have rubbed salt in the wounds of someone I still care about.

    Living your entire life in public is a problematic idea for many of us who still value discretion, privacy and tact. There are many people who make a good case for embracing the erosion of the division between private and public life, but I can't say I buy it. I've found that the opportunity to broadcast our lives indiscriminately has led to a deadening of certain sensibilities (in myself and others); the ease and immediacy of this kind of global communication makes it far easier for us to not give enough thought to whether our behaviour is appropriate or sensitive. The fall-out from a thoughtless moment on Twitter can be, and has been, catastrophic.

    I have great respect for people who use Twitter well and sensitively, but not everyone has that kind of self-discipline, and it's best if those of us who cause hurt to others stay away from it.

  8. I absolutely take what you say on board and understand. Twitter can sometimes be much like a school yard, things do tend to be amplified a lot, pain, joy, anger, love. etc. etc. We must all be careful to take everything in life with a pinch of salt I think. But in exactly the same way as it can bring out the best and most beautiful parts of human emotions and experiences out. It does the reverse too!

    Thanks for your wonderful comment Sobriety :-)
    Thought it would be interesting to get your take on this xx

  9. I big puffy <3 Twitter. It is my pub/school playground/office water cooler/support network/giggleometer and everything more it could be. Lots of lessons have been learnt on Twitter and there are many more "moments" waiting to happen.

    Just like life, Twitter is what you make it and only you are in control of it.