[image by Robyn Twomey]
The thing about Twitter is that it is beautiful in its simplicity, and powerful in its capability. Not everyone gets it at first…or second…or third time. But if you stick with it, it will pay off for you.
I was struck the other day with some of the common themes around the uncertainty of those who first tweet (What’s it all about?), as well as some of the subtleties that attract people to it.
Couple of things:
One, Twitter is sort of weird the first time you try it. I mean, when have you ever before sent out something in 140 characters or less to lots of friends. Okay, maybe text messages and Facebook status updates. But there is something unique about Twitter. Here is a sample from my article in Collide Magazine from March/April, and from Time Magazine’s latest cover story on Twitter.
“working on my blog,” was the first tweet (Twitter slang for an update) I typed out on the mircoblogging tool Twitter on December 9, 2007. In fact, I remember clearly where I sat in our home at that moment and what thoughts of curiosity, hesitancy, and narcissism ran through my head as I posted those simple little words. It doesn’t seem like much does it? In fact, I used only 18 of the allotted 140 characters, unsure if anything I had to say was worthwhile at all. I had two questions for myself: Who is going to read this? Who cares? In and of itself, one tweet is just that: one tweet. But in the context of all the tweets that compose my growing Twitter profile, a more complex portrait of my life began to emerge, forming a narrative that is the beginning to a relational connectivity with others online, (and most likely in person) that is easier to achieve than it was before.
The one thing you can say for certain about Twitter is that it makes a terrible first impression. You hear about this new service that lets you send 140-character updates to your “followers,” and you think, Why does the world need this, exactly? It’s not as if we were all sitting around four years ago scratching our heads and saying, “If only there were a technology that would allow me to send a message to my 50 friends, alerting them in real time about my choice of breakfast cereal.”
Second, I think that if you think of Twitter as only isolated, short, 140 character messages at a time, then you are missing out on it’s beauty. In my opinion, it’s about the totality of your narrative you are creating. The more you tweet, the more there is to shape that story. Again, here is a sample from my Collide Magazine article below, and one from the Time Magazine cover story…I love the phrase “ambient awareness.”
We all have the privilege to sit with people on a daily basis as they share various snapshots of their life with us. In fact, some of my fondest memories of being a college ministry director involve sitting across from a student at a coffee shop as we engaged one another over a cup of coffee and conversation. Those were memorable times, but one coffee talk chat was hardly enough time to even begin to get a sense of who that student was. Instead, I needed multiple trips to the coffee shop with them. One standalone conversation was just a short chapter in the larger narrative of that student’s life. But when compiled, all the conversations began to paint a beautiful portrait of who they were and what kind of story they were living.
And yet as millions of devotees have discovered, Twitter turns out to have unsuspected depth. In part this is because hearing about what your friends had for breakfast is actually more interesting than it sounds. The technology writer Clive Thompson calls this “ambient awareness”: by following these quick, abbreviated status reports from members of your extended social network, you get a strangely satisfying glimpse of their daily routines. We don’t think it at all moronic to start a phone call with a friend by asking how her day is going. Twitter gives you the same information without your even having to ask.
In your opinion, what makes Twitter so amazing?
And if you happen to be in Los Angeles September 11-12, come out and hear me speak on Twitter at the Christian Web Conference.