There was once a time where I was a proud-member of the rear guard when it came to social media technology: I was the last of my barkada to get a text/SMS capable phone, I scoffed at friendster and downloaded icq–only to stay invisible most of the time. The only borderline “social media” tech I remember embracing with enthusiasm was–and I know this will date me–a pocketbell beeper. Ah, high school romance in the 90s… Sweet nothings mediated through operators who couldn’t distinguish “Princess” from “Vincent”…
But where was I? Oh, right–I used to think social media technology was useless to me.
When I first heard of twitter, I couldn’t understand the appeal. Going from lengthy-yet-instantaneous YMs and texts to 140 characters seemed kind of backward. It probably also didn’t help that my first exposure to twitter was via Penny Arcade.
When I decided to try my hand at digital publishing, I knew that I was going to have to take social media seriously: by that time, Facebook was a part of the daily routine of most of my peers, and Multiply had become the nation’s virtual mall. Yet while both Facebook and Multiply are great social network sites, as a publisher and as a writer, it’s twitter that has proven most useful to me. Here’s why:
- Tweets can be a conversation: This in itself isn’t very unique–text messaging, instant messaging, these can be used to conduct conversations as well. With twitter however, conversations are open (unless you’ve locked your account) and if you’re talking about a matter of general interest, other people can chime in. You can choose to look for those replies or allow them to slip past your radar, but open conversations does create an opportunity to, say, get personal advice from people you respect but don’t personally know.
- Tweets can be asynchronous: Sure you can scribble off delayed replies in instant messenger, but I always feel a bit rude whenever I ignore an instant message, since it feels like I’m undermining the entire point of the technology (ditto with being invisible). With Twitter, which doesn’t have an indication of my online status, that isn’t an issue, and I can take as long as I need to compose a reply.
- Tweets are free: Or, well, at least it is from an online computer.
- Tweets are easy: Not if you’re making a story or trying for a humorous quip, but in general there’s not a lot of “moving parts” to the basic interface, which can be a relief compared to the busy-messy dashboards of other social networking sites.
- Tweets are interesting: (a) there are a lot of very interesting people on Twitter; perhaps because of the aforementioned ease of use or the fact that the medium not only allows for but is designed for short messages, luminaries otherwise too busy to regularly blog can have quite the web presence on Twitter, so chances are that you’ll be able to follow some people you truly find interesting; (b) the 140 character restriction forces people to be creative/innovative when it comes to expressing more complex thoughts with the medium–such as stories or jokes–and when well done these make for great reading.
- Tweets can let us into the minds of others: I imagine a Twitter-stream is somewhat akin to what it would feel like to tap into the universal consciousness of humanity in real time, and that I find awesome.
- Tweets allows us to witness intersections: seeing conversations between Adam Savage and John Hodgeman or Brian Sanderson and Tobias Buckell as they happen… It’s like getting a backstage pass to a convention of your personal idols/heroes.
- Tweets can amplify a call for help: Whether it is you doing the asking or somebody else, Twitter is a great way to get a request for assistance out. Best personal example: I sent out an invitation for six-word stories and got over a hundred in little over a day.
- Tweets are great for knowledge sharing: There are a lot of people who use Twitter as a broadcast medium and tweet interesting links or information. As these get passed around, sometimes others will add their own thoughts, which makes it great as a tool for keeping up-to-date in any fields which have experts who tweet (like writers and publishers).
- Tweets widen your horizons: Tweets don’t have to be as laser-focused as a blog to attract readers, so you might end up following interesting tangents: follow a guy for his scientific know-how and in the end you might be lead to your new favorite rock band or restaurant.
If you scroll over to the bottom of the main page, you’ll see I added the WordPress twitter widget at the bottom so that the tweets from my personal Twitter account will show up on the site. The reason is simple: sometimes I get wind of useful/interesting links that wouldn’t merit a full blog post, but which I nonetheless think my friends and readers would find interesting. With the widget these links are now accessible to people who aren’t on Twitter–although, hopefully after the above, maybe you’ll join me there too ^_^