What is Twitter? Several media folk, in print or on TV or radio, have attempted to answer that question, and they usually say something typical like, “Posts, also called tweets, can range from the mundane (“Stuck in traffic”) to the heart of the human experience (“Tears. We’re having twin girls!”) There also can be too much information (“40 minutes on the toilet.”)” (Taz Tagore, The Toronto Star, 21 March 2009.)
After retweeting the usual banalities about Twitter, Tagore comes closest to describing the Twitter experience in noting that tweets include “humour, news or an opportunity to connect with other human beings.” The latter I think is it’s greatest attraction.
According to some, online folk have foregone the real human experience of face-to-face social activity, but I think it’s more the other way round. Unable to find the kind of human interaction they crave, with busy-ness being the shunning mantra of North American society and geography limiting their choice of who they can meet, people go on Facebook or Twitter to have that silly, erudite, brief conversation that fulfills a yearning we all have.
As a writer, I started on Twitter as a way to discipline my writing. With only 140 characters at your disposal, you got to learn to write a substantive sentence in very few words. Some Twitter folk use txt msg shorthand. But on Twitter I find that kind of vocabulary hard to read. Very occasionally I’ve resorted to that, and then I berate myself for being lazy and not taking the time to figure out how to say it shorter. Then I promptly forget my self-beratement as something else grabs my attention as being good tweeting material. You see, Twitter is also a great way for a writer to quickly throw out a thought, a thought that’s too short for a blog, but the act of writing it may cement it in one’s brain and so lead to a longer article later on.
When I first started, I tweeted into the void. I was so dense I had no idea how to find the main twitter feed or people to follow beyond the few contacts Twitter found in my mail program. But strangers found me. And started to follow me. And then I started to follow them, the ones whose tweets made me laugh and think. I seem to interact most with the West Coast, rather ironic given that Toronto is supposed to be Twitter heaven and has the most Twitter-savvy Canadian politician, our mayor.
And that’s really what Twitter is about, finding people of like mind to follow and converse with. If inanities are your thing, that’s what your Twitter life will focus on. If news is your thing, then you have your pick of news organizations and their reporters to follow and talk to, especially CBC which seems to be on Twitter crack. CTV is pretty stodgy in comparison. So much for buying up CHUM, but I digress. If your interests are wide, then you’ll have variety in your Twitter feed.
Twitter may end up being a trend, we don’t know, but right now it’s maturing into an interesting place where you can meet people you never could in “real life.” And for me it’s also just another reason, another way to write.