Wednesday, March 11, 2009
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.