Why We Tweet: My Life in 140 Characters or Less

The wife leaned over my shoulder the other night as I devoured my neglected TweetDeck feed. Her forehead creased.

“I don’t get it.”

“It’s Twitter.” this, in my most distracted, geekily condescending voice.

“I know what it is. I just don’t get why you need this and Facebook?” An exhasperated exhale and I realize I’ve committed a RWT (Responding Whilst Twittering) and must come up for air lest I commit further atrocities against God and man.

The thing about Twitter is that I didn’t get it either. As an English major, the idea that anything of value could be said in 140 characters or less appalled me.

“Well, it’s like Facebook,” our common addiction, “but these are people who would never in a million years Friend me.”

Which seemed to be a good enough answer for her at the time, but it got me to thinking why I keep coming back to spy on a bunch of people who don’t know me.

The answer seems simplistic (It’s the community, stupid); but there’s more to it than that.

As a card-carrying geek, there are a myriad of obsessions available and, with the advent of online social networks, more and more people to share them with. Problem is, if you’re trying to carve out a bit of shared experience for yourself, every option has its downside. Forums and their drama get old fast (and the information you get is rarely accurate). Blogs are great, but time consuming (and have Drama tags all their own).

Twitter, on the other hand is my hand-crafted Geek Posse. I can drop in and see what my favorite comic book writers are up to; what toy news has caught the eye of like-minded webcomic artists; and what brilliance Geek Jesus Wil Wheton is offering up for consideration. And I can do it all on the run. It’s a 30-second barometer of what the rest of the world (that I care about) is doing.

Of course, I have my Twitstalk objects of adoration (like I’m really going to say no to spying on Eliza Dushku?); but they’re in the minority; and, oddly enough, my least favorite tweets because the majority of what they’re concerned about doesn’t jibe with the community I’ve pulled together in the rest of my feed.

Initially, I hopped on Twitter to get advanced information on projects directly from the people who generate some of my favorite shows, books, etc. But I’ve stuck with it because, in a weird way, they help me keep in touch with a much larger community that I normally wouldn’t have access to. My Tweets (when I’m not just bitching into the void to blow off steam) are an attempt to add a bit to the conversation.


One thought on “Why We Tweet: My Life in 140 Characters or Less

  1. I, too, did not ‘get’ Twitter. My account languished for months before work forced me to investigate it as a technical writer’s tool, of all things. End result? I LOVE IT! I have Tweetdeck, makes it even better.

    Like most people, I am more than my job; that is – there is more to Patty than just (exceptional 🙂 tech writing. There is also my fiction addiction, my kids, my Gilles Marini obsession… well, you get the idea.

    On Twitter, I follow all of these interests and some even follow me. On Twitter, I’ve learned to write kick-ass query letters, learned about the latest novel-outlining software and even heard from AuthorIT about a raspberry I’d posted on my own blog. It’s the epitome of instant gratification. Yesterday, I had a Captivate question and someone from Adobe sent the answer in seconds.

    Personally, think Twitter is this decade’s Killer App.

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