Making a case for Twitter

Before those who’ve already sworn off the flavour-of-the-week social networker click away, let’s start with the following premises:

Firstly, that I am a reasonably intelligent man.

This is a point of some debate, and I certainly won’t discourage that. However, in a random sampling of people, let’s assume I’d made a decent accounting of myself, for the purposes of this post.

Secondly, let’s assume that we like to make generalizations. That there are those of us- and I was among them- that assumed Twitter to be a short sighted, uninteresting forum for short sighted, uninteresting people. Let me assure you, ladies and gentlemen, it is much more than that.

I’m not here to lead a legion of people onto the flavour-of-the-day social networker. I’m here to change the way you look at it. So grab a chair, and lend me your ear. I’ll try not to waste your time (well, any more than usual).

*****

I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first.

My buddy Ken, who got me onto Twitter, wasn’t really either. And our initial forays proved this. But like anyone, we’ve adapted and changed as we’ve discovered what we like and don’t like, what works and what doesn’t for what we want to accomplish.

What was this strange, connective, online bulletin board messenger thingy? Was it a “what we’re doing now” instant updater, for all to see? Was it yet another internet fad, to be passed around to others like ourselves, and discarded in favor of something newer and bigger and flashier? Maybe it is. Lord only knows what kind of server costs this sort of this is incurring, and Twitter doesn’t have Facebook’s now-invasive apps and advertisements to support it just yet.

When I talk to people who aren’t on Twitter about it, there’s some misunderstanding about what it is. Well, I think there’s some misunderstanding, for what I want out of it.

*****

There are those that use Twitter as a “what I’m doing RIGHT NOW” forum. And that’s fine. That’s one use for it.

There are those that use as a direct line of communication and marketing- my buddy Ken, for a while, had his Geekdad updates go right to his Twitter (which he, mercifully, moved to another account).   Bill Simmons, who writes for ESPN, seems to agree with this line of thinking. And I do, to a point- I’ve got my blog posts going directly to my Twitter, so anytime there’s an update, up goes a link to a new post, for everyone to see.

I had a fifth grade teacher, Ms. Russell, who had us keep journals of what we did at school from day to day. She always encouraged us not only to say that “we had French and Social Studies and recess”, but to say what we did IN that class, and what we thought about it. That’s something that always stayed with me- to not just mention the main points, but to get into the details. The how, and the why.

As someone modestly creative, the how and the why of things fascinate me. And Twitter gives me an immediate outlet for the how and the why of a particular moment. It’s what I’m thinking RIGHT THEN. The immediacy appeals to me, as well as the context.

I “tweet” (that’s what a Twitter post is called, for the uninitiated) about sports a lot, because I like being able to spout off what I’m thinking right at a particular time. As a fan, the emotions tend to run hot and cold, and being able to write right away about what’s going on in my head is something I’ve really enjoyed.

Certainly, there’s the potential for Twitter to neuter narrative detail, and that’s a danger, especially with the 140 character limit. But that’s also a challenge- you need to be creative to express yourself in small bursts, to get your point out sharper and quicker, as Simmons mentions in the link above.

But it’s not just what you give- there’s a lot to get in there as well.

Like a particular topic? Search it on Twitter- find people who are talking about it, respond to them, start a conversation. I’ve gained a few followers and followees that way, while ranting on something or other on a particular night.

Much has been made of “celebrities” who are on Twitter, and there’s no shortage of them now, with it gaining popularity of late. And there’s those who, as Simmons also mentioned, use it as a marketing vehicle and a subtle way to promote themselves. But there’s also some who use it as a direct line to fans and people, to communicate and debate and react to the people who are out there. The band Collective Soul, for example- usually, guitarist Dean Roland- often spends time “tweeting” back with fans. And while there are limitations in the Twitter format, there’s no denying the benefit of a direct line to those that support you. And the possible advantages in having such a line, rather than being forced to use handlers or publicists or media.

As someone following the evolution of journalism and media, Twitter is a fascinating study in that evolution.

Middlemen are being continually eliminated, with processes of communication becoming easier by the day. Anyone can have a blog, or be a self-published author. Podcasts can be made and produced in the comfort of one’s home, with nothing more expensive than a microphone. When media outlets were shut out of Iran during the protests over the election, Twitter became a way for people in Iran to get the word out. There was even a massive campaign to get users to change their location to “Tehran” to cover for legitimate Iranian protestors who were  really working against the government (think along the lines of  “I am Spartacus!”, for those wondering how that ever accomplished anything).

Changing the world? Nope. Greasing the wheels of the train? Sounds good to me.

****

This probably meandered off point. That’s not unusual for one of my posts.

But like I said, I’m not looking to lead a legion of followers to this strange, new-ish web meme(though, really, this guy’s pretty cool). Just looking to change the viewpoint on poor, picked on Twitter a little.

So stop on by Twitter sometime and see what’s up there. It won’t hurt. I promise.

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