Coming to terms with Twitter

I may have finally found a use for Twitter. It’s taken me a while. I started out in the same state of bewilderment with Facebook, but I’d managed to integrate it into my life fairly quickly. With Twitter, though, not only could I not figure out why I should bother with it, but most people I knew were equally puzzled. I’d read several articles about it, but they left me uninspired. Oh, the whole thing about it being an outlet for pro-democracy forces in Iran was great, but I couldn’t really see that as being part of my daily life.

It doesn’t help that there just isn’t much there to work with. Twitter’s defining feature is that 140 character limit, about a sentence or two, and everything else springs from that. Not surprisingly, I decided it was a variant of the Facebook status feed, only shorter, and as long as Twitter came across as being Facebook minus most of Facebook, why bother?

I’d been asked to join Twitter as part of the More 23 Things on a Stick program. It didn’t make a good first impression on me. I will spare you my grumblings about it here; the curious may visit my other blog 23 Distractions (naturally, all relevant entries are tagged “Twitter”). However, in the spirit of learning about Web 2.0, I promised I’d hang on until the end of the program and see what happened. It’s only now as I debate deleting my Twitter account altogether that I’m beginning to think of things to do with it besides copy my Facebook statuses.

Twitter is often categorized as microblogging. I’d heard that term from the beginning, but I hadn’t stopped to consider what that actually meant. I mentally labeled the site “Facebook Lite” and focused my energies elsewhere. I’m thinking, though, that microblogging isn’t just a fancy term for writing status updates. After all, my “macroblogging” isn’t a series of extended status updates. They’re journal entries made presentable and if I’d been willing to cut them down, I could’ve made tweets out of them. For example, Fine Print to date:

  • I’ve started a blog because I’m not satisfied with Facebook Notes
  • I hate my cursive
  • If I’m impressed by Samara O’Shea and she’s impressed by Anne Frank, what would I think of Anne Frank?
  • I’m addicted to knitting alpaca neckwarmers!
  • It was meant to be: I just found a copy of Anne Frank’s diary
  • What this name generator does to my real name and pseudonym is coincidentally significant
  • The female character was the star of Monsters vs. Aliens. Why is that sort of thing still unusual?

William Zinsser* would be so proud of me. Now with all of these, I had more I wanted to say or show. But even with Mercury in Sagittarius, I have observations for which 140 characters will be sufficient. So slowly, carefully–and while reserving the right to dump the whole matter at a moment’s notice–I’ve decided to retry Twitter as my third blog. I will reserve the status updates for Facebook and think of each tweet as the concentrated essence of a blog post. Perhaps I’ll even get confident enough to reveal my Twitter account to a general audience. (Okay, okay, baby steps here!)

  • Revisiting Twitter as a microblog and not just another status feed

*Author of On Writing Well and advocate of minimalist writing.

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