Over the past few months, I’ve been asked by many people “Why do you tweet?” or “What’s so great about Twitter?” It’s a completely valid question and one that I love talking about. I signed up for Twitter back in April of 2007, used it for a weekend, and thought it was ridiculous. Who in the world wanted to know what I was doing. I was only following a few people and not many were following me, and it seemed like I was just sending out meaningless bits of information about my day to know one. Which I was probably was. And I had just read this article about being hyperconnected. And so I quit.
About one year later, around May of 2008, I became an active Twitter user. I began to understand it more. I began to follow many more people – and found that more people were following me as well. I found that Twitter was indeed developing my sixth sense – or in the words of Danah Boyd – my “peripheral awareness.” Others – like Clive Thompson have also referred to this phenomenon as “ambient awareness.” At any rate – as you can probably tell – I’m a huge proponent of Twitter now (and I was on Twitter waaaaay before @Oprah was, just for the record).
A few days ago, a friend of mine (Adam Copeland – I can call him out on my blog because he called me out on his…) told people that they were fully-warned that he may stop following them if their tweets didn’t fall into line with his list of criteria for worthwhile tweets. I had to laugh a little bit, because I’m pretty sure that he has already “hidden” me from his News Feed on Facebook. But, he has apparently grown tired of reading what people ate for breakfast on Twitter, and now he’s ready to do some culling of who he follows on Twitter.
So, first – as some other people mentioned on his post have already said – it’s totally up to Adam who he follows and who he doesn’t. Twitter should be something that he enjoys and finds useful – and if you don’t like following someone – then just unfollow them. It’s that easy. I’m sure I’ll be unfollowed sometime soon – but…I’m okay with that. But…(something else I alluded to in my comment) it seems as though he may be heading down the road of eventually becoming a Twitter snob – and I certainly wouldn’t want that for him. He writes:
“…Most of twitter is, indeed, pointless babble. Or, at least, Iâ€™m finding Twitter to be of much less benefit than it might be, and not without a plethora of annoyances.”
He then gives a list of things that make a “worthwhile” tweet and a list of things that make an “annoying” tweet. My beef is that Twitter is not just one thing. Clearly it is something that has many purposes:
- Advertising/Marketing for businesses & organizations
- Fun way to keep friends & family updated on daily experiences
- Great way to network with like-minded individuals and organizations
- Something that is just FUN
- Resource for practically anything
- Great way to get feedback from clients, friends and others
- Amazing way to get news out to the world (think #IranElection)
- Quick way of getting information and recommendations from trusted sources
And I think as soon as we make Twitter into “needing” to be one thing, we do Twitter a disservice. I think that in some ways I try to utilize as many purposes of Twitter as possible with my own personal @adamwc account. And for me, I really do think there is a benefit to the ambient awareness that is created with such a social tool. I enjoy hearing what people have for breakfast, or what random thought is going through their head at that moment, or if they’re stuck waiting at the DMV, or if they just got back from a run, or if they just spent 2 hours at the YMCA working out, or if they just got home from back-to-school shopping with their kids. It helps me stay connected with folks I wouldn’t get to keep up with otherwise. And that has some inherent benefit and worth to me.
Sure there are times when some tweets can be annoying (and I’ve contributed to that myself – as did thousands others – during the @SquareSpace iPhone giveaway). But – that’s all part of figuring out and learning a new creative electronic medium.
I could go into the ways in which I think Twitter (and Facebook, for that matter) has helped my ministry – but that’s probably for another blog post.
I love Twitter for the same reasons Adam Copeland loves Twitter. But I also love the mundane – the boring – the trivial – the food tweets (even cat food tweets). I think our esteemed Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA) said it well when he tweeted:
What if there really isn’t any mundane? What if we really do believe that all things are spiritual? What if the random, seemingly pointless babble of Twitter is key to some deeper awareness and knowledge of those we care about? I don’t know – but I look forward to seeing how people use this powerful social tool in the future – both for their individual lives and for ministry.
Why do you use Twitter? Do you think certain tweets are annoying? What makes a “worthwhile” tweet for you?