At a course I was on the other day, the tutor asked us to sell her on Twitter, the micro-blogging service that continues to be the flavour of the moment. What was the point of it?
The other web-native in the class related how Twitter is essential for her professional networking as someone who works in web; and how her active network of real-world connections effectively drive their social activity through Twitter.
It made me wonder about my own relationship with and use of Twitter. I signed up at the end of March, mostly to secure my preferred username. Since then, I’ve sort of figured out a rhythm for using it, and on reflection I think it has had a small but curious impact on my life.
I view Twitter as an ongoing conversation which I dip into from time to time. Sometimes I’ll click through the archives and catch up; mostly I just see what people are saying right now. The conversation aspect is important, as questions and replies ripple back-and-forth across the 180-odd people who I follow.
However, those followers aren’t all of a piece.
- There’s my real-world crew, people I know and care about whose activities are of interest to me just because of that connection.
- There’s my content-providers, people who I don’t know at all but who consistently provide curious and interesting things to look at (a significant chunk of Friday linky comes from Twitter).
- There’s my political agents, people who are tracking and promoting political angles in which I’m interested.
- And there’s my “famous people”, generally creative types who communicate on a massively one-to-many scale about whatever the heck they want.
Two effects on my headspace from this.
First, the world seems smaller. It really does become one big conversation, and connections between people seem magnified. UK writer Warren Ellis chats with recent arrival in Wellington Meredith Yayanos who swaps jokes with William Gibson while heading out to watch the dolphins just mentioned by friend Jack Elder who compares notes with friend Suraya who converses with Warren Ellis… and round and round it goes. It magnifies network effects, and NZ is already home to some pretty intense network effects. It makes the world seem pretty small.
Second, it’s shown me a new kind of “fandom” (for want of a better word). I’ve been following Dollhouse, as regular readers know, and the Twitter presence of that show is pretty strong. Many of the Dollhouse peeps are on Twitter and they all seem to be friendly with each other and hang out a lot; more importantly, they all were quite up front about what it was like fighting to keep their show on the air, and then lamenting its cancellation, and finally celebrating the fact that they are in a show they really believe in. And they clearly respond to and appreciate the community of readers around them. Its a view into the collaborative creative energy that I haven’t seen before, and that I really appreciate. (Longtime readers will also know I’ll a big fan of collaborative creative energy…) It’s something that I didn’t expect to appreciate – I was all snobbish and sniffy about following actors on favourite shows – but turns out, I like it, at least for this set of people.
So, yeah, Twitter. Not essential. Not for everyone. But definitely an interesting tool that can be harnessed in more ways that I initially expected, and one that will keep being part of my online presence.
(I also have been known to ask “what’s your at?” to people, asking for their Twitter ID. Heh.)
(Related to that last note – in conversation with a Yoof the other day, I heard for the first time the expression “typed up” meaning “found on the internet”, e.g. “He typed up this video of a kid dressed as Batman wrestling his mom”. Interesting usage for word geeks to note!)