“Why Twitter?” I’ve had that question put to me so many times in the last six months, I was starting to think it was 2009 all over again. I don’t mean to snark, ladies and gents. It’s not really my style, but it does seem rather odd that in 2011, there are still people who find Twitter such a mystery.
I’m the first to admit that Twitter isn’t for everyone. This has been made clear by the thousands of people who start Twitter accounts only to never post a tweet or abandon it after a few months time. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with that.
Some simply prefer other forms of communication and digital interaction. If Tumblr is more your thing, I say go forth and Tumble. If you’re more of a visual storyteller or a budding videographer, I look forward to subscribing to your YouTube channel. If you’re a no nonsense blogger who refuses to be limited by 140 characters, you have my full support.
What I’m talking about are those who feel the need to have Twitter’s popularity and approval explained to them in detail. Surely, even if you’re a Facebook addict, it can’t be that hard to grasp why some are drawn to the microblogging world or how it may be a more beneficial means of communication. And yet, I still hear the question: “Why Twitter?”
Why Ask Why?
A number of bloggers have tackled how your use of Twitter may affect your appreciation for the service.
I remember the early days of 2009 when comic after comic lampooned the superficiality of Twitter. Many claimed it was for self-absorbed, chattering, link-happy neophytes who felt the world truly needed to know every time they ate a sandwich, arrived at work or took a nap. This is a fascinating claim considering I’ve been on Twitter for two years and I’ve yet to meet one person who uses it this way. Even those like Indianapolis DJ, rapper and entrepreneur Rusty Redenbacher or actress, activist and singer Taraji P. Henson, whom I’m convinced tweet a minimum of 20-30 times a day, generally share substantive information, ideas and anecdotes.
Of course, this will all come down to how you use the service. If you only follow people who constantly stream uninteresting minutiae your way or self-promote like they’re going out of business every week, then maybe you’re following the wrong people and using the service inefficiently. A problem that I hear is just as common on Facebook. However, I hardly see it as a justification for rendering Twitter obsolete. Perhaps you simply need to engage Twitter in a more meaningful way or, at least, get better friends.
How I Use Twitter
Twitter is my morning newspaper. Well, morning, afternoon and evening. But it’s essentially the live stream of events, news and communities I care about. I use it to stay in touch with a few friends, but that’s just the cherry on top. I follow Twitterfeeds covering politics, travel, art, entertainment, technology, and, of course, the wide wide world of freelancing. Not only does it help keep me in the know about what’s going on in my specific industry, but it helps keep me in the loop in areas where I’m clearly a novice or a spectator.
Yes, I follow celebrities like Common, Mindy Kaling and Mick Foley. Yes, I follow humor sites like The Onion, Cracked and The Oatmeal. But that doesn’t mean I don’t take Twitter seriously as a service that can greatly enrich my day-to-day life. As I mentioned to another blogger, since joining Twitter, I’ve received help in choosing a quality portable hard drive for my computer, learned how to tweak bits of code to improve my website, and sought out events in my community that I wouldn’t have otherwise known about.
And I don’t just take away from others. I give as well. Recently, I’ve introduced two freelancers to each other who can work together on a project, I’ve offered encouragement and advice to friends who were going through a rough patch, and I’ve annoyed the hell out of anyone on the West coast watching Glee three hours behind me. (Ok, maybe that last one was more of a take than a give.) But you get my point. Twitter, when used effectively, can give you a true sense of community in the digital world.
Just because the creators of Twitter haven’t found a way to monetize the service so they can retire with billions in their bank accounts, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value if you use it well. Like many other online services, it can become a time suck and leave you subject to spam artists. But it’s hardly an enigma. Not anymore.
The internet is inundated every month with articles full of advice on how to approach Twitter socially, professionally or both. Regardless of industry or vocation, there’s probably a host of users in your field interacting and sharing advice on any number of topics. You can take the passive approach and use it as a RSS reader or you can fully engage your peers by sharing comments, ideas, photos, videos and links to whatever catches your fancy.
In other words, you no longer have an excuse to furrow your brow and ask a question that’s not only been answered a hundred times before, but is fairly intuitive to understand. Twitter is not an unknowable entity that defies your grasp. It may not be your cup of tea, but it’s certainly a worthwhile service that many enjoy in some form everyday. Feel free to explore the world of Twitter at your own pace and in your own liking. But most importantly, stop asking “Why Twitter?”
Have you found yourself defending Twitter to non-users?
How have you made Twitter work for you?