Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Follow Me

by Libby Hellmann

Ok. I did it. I’m on Twitter. And I’m enjoying it.

I realize some of you are deathly tired of hearing about Twitter. I can’t blame you. If I weren’t already doing it, I’d be a curmudgeon too. But before you automatically dismiss it out of hand, give it a try. For a week or so. It took me a while to get used to it, but I happen to like the possibilities.

Frankly, aside from playing Wordscraper, I don’t really see the point of Facebook. Do I really want to connect with people back in high school? And I’m getting a little tired of being invited to “events” where I don’t know any of the people involved. I’m not on My Space, but I hear it’s mostly advertising. And while I’m on GoodFriends, I’m not that active.

I’m not saying Twitter doesn’t sink into banality at times. I’m not interested in what someone’s cooking for dinner, or how they overslept or didn’t. Happily, though, every post, because it’s limited to 140 characters, is manageable. 140 characters is about two sentences. Or a sound bite. So whether the comments are clever or dumb, they pass quickly.

Speaking of sound bites, that’s probably the main reason I joined. I’m a recovering news junkie – although I’m not exactly recovering any more. (I worked in TV news in another life). My jones kicked in during the election and it’s still with me. I need to hear breaking news, as well as updates, round-ups, and comments about the news. Twitter is terrific for that. There are a lot of “journos” as well as news organizations on the site, and most provide links to the stories, blogs, or comments they’re "tweeting" about. I’ve never been so well informed.

But I like Twitter for professional reasons as well. There are a lot of Chicago people and organizations on Twitter, which helps me feel more connected to the city I write about. There are also a lot of book people (booksellers, publishers, agents, bloggers, and authors), and they dispense solid information. There’s even a book discussion hosted by LitChat a few times a week. You’d be surprised by the depth of the conversation.

In fact, Twitter forces me to be more concise. Which isn’t a bad thing. It also helps me appreciate the wit and brevity of others.

So what’s the downside? There are spammers on Twitter – although they exist on other sites too. There are also folks who collect “followers” for reasons I don’t completely understand, although I’m sure it has something to do building mailing lists. And the sheer volume of tweets can be overwhelming – I use an application, Tweetdeck, that helps organize the flow. And, as I said, there are silly, time-wasting tweets. But for every one of those, there are also announcements from politicians, humorists, and celebrities (Jane Fonda is on Twitter). There’s even someone who tweets amusing comments about “24” and Jack Bauer. And yes, it can be a time suck, if you’re not careful.

But enough from me. What do you think? Is Twitter just another narcissistic time-waster? A fad? Crack cocaine for someone with ADD? Or do you see possibilities in the service?

Btw, you can follow me here.


Joe Moore said...

Hi Libby, I also recently jumped into the Twitter pool. It's interesting, and there are a few folks I follow that have some cool stuff to say. The shorthand language can be goofy at times, but you get used to it. I guess my biggest issue with it is if I'm following someone and comment on their post, if they're not following me, they will never know what I said. I'm not sure I get that logic.

I'm also amazed that some of my fellow writers seem to have substituted working on their novels to Twitter instead. Now, if we could get paid to Twit, that would be different.

BTW, I am following you. Didn't you hear the footsteps behind?

FizzWater said...

Twitter been around forever. They used to call them chat rooms. Don't lie to yourself, it's the same dumbass thing. Just better technology.

If you need twitter to feel more connected to your own damn city, you best be reevaluating a whole lotta you.

JD Rhoades said...

I like it for exactly the same reasons you do, Libby. Twitter is a tool that's most useful when people are using it to broadcast things like "look at this cool thing I found" rather than , e.g., "I'm making a sandwich."

Barbara D'Amato said...

Libby--seriously--how much time does it eat up?

Libby Hellmann said...

Hey, Joe.. I hear you. In terms of replies, I do a search every morning, just to make sure I haven't missed any. I suspect others do that too.

Dusty, I've noticed we all tend to kick back on Twitter at the end of the day. Post-writing. See you there today? I'll buy.

Barb... it takes as much or as little time as you want. FOr me, it's a reward for having written a page. Well, sometimes a graf. But I do like the end-of-day activity. Kind of like going to the bar before heading home.

Jon The Crime Spree Guy said...

I dig Twitter. Not much of a time sink.
interesting trends.
Comic guys post a lot at night, mystery writers in the morning, publishers in the afternoon.

Libby Hellmann said...

For more on what Twitter is capable of, check out this article from the LA Times:

Anonymous said...

I'm not a Twitterer, but I love (too much!) playing Wordscraper (scrabble) on FaceBook. Just ask Judy, my enabler. And Dusty. He's another.

Annie C
who needs to get work done, after making my next move!

Sara Paretsky said...

oy, vey, libby--all these things take too much time!!!

Kristy Kiernan said...

Had fun with you on LitChat today, Libby! Thanks for participating...

LitChat said...

Thanks for the plug for LitChat. We're still pretty new in the Twitterverse and appreciate smart, insightful people like you who join the chat.

Shameless plug:
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