Friday, June 19, 2009

Why I Tweet

I am a Twitter user. I have an application on my computer to use it more easily than on the web. It's my second--the first one bit the dust when I accidentally turned off the power strip and therefore my computer in the middle of using it. I haven't figured out how to fix it, and so I let it go, though I miss some things it could do.

But I use Twitter. Many people, when they find this out, if they even know what Twitter is, ask me about it. Why--isn't it basically the same thing as Facebook (which I also obsessively devotedly use)? Who cares what people are having for breakfast? Doesn't it take away from "real" realtionships? So here's my explanation.

First: no, it's not the same as Facebook. There are few photos (and you have to click a link to see them), no applications or quizzes, and you are limited to 140 characters. Period. Even in your private messages. It varies from person to person, but I actually have very little overlap between my "friends" on Facebook and my "followers" on Twitter. What overlap there is generally from people I know on FB opening accounts on Twitter, not the other way around. I have one exception--a lovely woman who I "met" on Twitter who I then friended on FB.

Most of the people that are my FB friends I actually know in "real life." Most of my followers/those I'm following on Twitter I do not.

Second: Very few people I know actually use their 140 characters to answer Twitter's question, "What are you doing?" and give you a play-by-play of their activities for the day. If they do, it's because that's what on their mind at the moment and they want to share it in addition to the rest of their more significant "Tweets." People use Twitter to rally to causes, engage in discussion, network, find and give support, "meet" people with similar interests, and break news. Some examples: many people on Twitter (myself included) have bathed our pictures in green in support of the people if Iran; yesterday the Today Show was asking people on Twitter for information about the pilot who died mid-flight; when the toddler of a "mommy blogger" died suddenly of an infection, the news traveled quickly and Twitter lit up with supportive messages.

Third: These are relationships. Often I don't even know the real names of the people with whom I tweet, just their usernames, but I include them in prayers, joke and cry with them, ask and give information and opinions. My face-to-face and otherwise real-world relationships come first, as they should. But there are real people behind each avatar and username, and while there are many just on there to get as many followers as possible and feel popular, or to build and market their consulting businesses, there are just as many who are there to connect and interact, and they are all so different!

In my small corner of the world, how much opportunity do I have to daily interact with sexologists, conservative and progressive Christians, Etsy sellers, atheists, celebrities (some do actually reply), politicians, stay-at-home moms, eco-gurus, savvy aunties, news groups, activists, farmers, non-profits, and family members? The people I interact with are all over the country and the world (we often say good morning/afternoon/evening to cover the many time zones) and from so many different viewpoints and places in life, and they just fascinate me!

And apparently, I must interest some of them too: this week I surpassed 1500 followers.

So, in many more than 140 characters, this is why I use Twitter.

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