December 5, 2008

Convert the Twitter Skeptic

I am a Twitter virgin.  

Much like my very late entry into the blogosphere, I've only just come to realize that there is even such a thing as Twitter.  When I hear tweet, I think of a bird.  Not of an online communication network that, in my opinion, verges on... well... a really creepy stalkerish dependence on people you DON'T EVEN KNOW.  

Yes.  There.  I've said it. 

I find Twitter to be super creepy.

It's AIM away messages on steroids.  It's email on crack.  It's an amped up Facebook status.  It's a text message continually sent to everyone in your contact list - except, chances are, you've never even met 85% of those contacts.  It's a micro blog entirely comprised of one-line updates on the minutia of your daily existence.  

I know that there are a gazillion people on Twitter.  Apparently they all feel the need to share their every move and thought with the other faceless figures on the Internet with whom they've become virtual friends.  

I'm all about making friends.  But to be honest, sometimes even blog friends freak me out.  I mean, these are people that you have never met.  That you will probably never ever meet.  And yes, it's kind of nice to have (relatively) anonymous interactions sometimes - to discuss anything from surrogacy to white kitchen cabinets and get instant feedback as people share their thoughts and reactions.  And sure, it's also kind of cool that these are the friends that you could have had, had things worked out differently.  People you could have known had you lived in a different town, a different state, a different coast, a different continent.  These are people you would never otherwise have the chance to meet.  People you now have the opportunity to make a connection with regardless of the barriers of physical distance.

But, really?  Tweeting?  

We're already sharing the gory details of our birth experiences, photos of our family vacations, our political viewpoints, every minuscule detail involved with planning our weddings... What happened to privacy?  

Has our technologically-obsessed society morphed into such a narcissistic breed that we really think that people around the world would be better off if kept apprised of every breath we take?  And have our voyeuristic tendencies really exploded to such a degree that we can't go a few hours without peeking into the life of a total stranger?

In short, I just don't get it.  I don't see the point in constantly updating complete strangers with everything going on with my life.  I already feel like I do that enough on my blog.  

So, Internet, convince me:  Why should I join Twitter?


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā koe Kathy,

I'm afraid I'm a bit like you. But, as yet, I'm to be convinced of the usefulness of it.

Twitter and tweets? Sounds a bit seedy to me :-)

Ka kite
from Middle-earth

Writer Dad said...

It took me a LONG time to buy the twitter line. I've been on it for a month and I rarely use it. I'm sure I could use it more effectively but I like to speak less and ramble more. That's the opposite of Twitter.

Schmutzie said...

I have to admit that I'm a complete Twitter whore, but it does serve its uses, too. Today, Twitter people hooked me up with a Firefox add-on that I needed. Now they are apprising me of the myth/reality of "Seven Minutes in Heaven".
Okay, that second example serves no real purpose, but it does entertain.

Ulla Hennig said...

I am on twitter regularly and I like the information (about new blog posts for example) given there. It is a tool like any other tool - you can use it or abuse it.

Rarst said...

Best advice/opinion about twitter I ever heard was "Ignore that what-are-you-doing-now".

I completely agree with ocmment above - twitter is only a tool. I hadn't ever seen a single personal update from some of my followers.

Twitter is not forcing any guidelines on you, even if it does seem like that from outside.

Claire said...

I turn to twitter in search of fast breaking news (go to, Twitter search). For example, when the Red Sox ACLS game wasn't on, I searched ACLS and got the answer (TBS routers down, back up routers down) and even learned when to try the channel again. Similarly, I followed the lightning speed of the reaction to Motrin Moms baby wearing ad (#motrinmoms) and the events in Mumbai. On a day to day basis, I find i get interesting links that I enjoy. on a personal note it is harder, as many of the folks I follow spend their lives in blogs or social networks, and have time to approach twitter in a way to develop relationships. My time is so fragmented (work, m-in-law estate wind-down, mom, board service, family, garden, wld love to read a book, cook something once in a while, etc.) that I haven't been able to approach twitter in more than the dilettantish way I approach a lot of other things. I still enjoy it, but think that I get dropped by folks who initially follow me because I don't "give" in the same way they do.

Ashley said...

I'm right there with Schmutzie - I check Twitter constantly, and update at least a few times a day. It can be helpful (if you have local people as your friends, for example, you can ask for restaurant recommendations or something like that) but, it's also mostly entertainment value for me.

Don't succumb if you don't like the idea, but we'll be there waiting for you when you do. :)

carma said...

If you had asked this same question a month ago I would have said Twitter was a complete waste of time. But, since then, I have gotten over my initial reluctance to get involved and have "embraced" tweeting.
I enjoy the spontaneity of interaction compared to, say, waiting to see if I have a comment on my blog to reply to!
It is also a great resource for blogging help. You kinda have to just jump right on it :)

Guy Tessler said...

Twitter is what YOU make out of it for your needs (aka tool). Questions I ask myself when thinking about using a SM tool:
1) What types of people that you don't currently know, you want to interact with? 2) Why? 3)WIFM? 4)Is this a good way to interact with any of the people I know?
For me Twitter answers are:1) technology, marketing, givers of knowledge and info, local influencers 2) to gain info and have these relationships "warmed up" if a mutual interest may arise 3) knowing people and positioning myself as a source and connection for what I do 4) with some it is much faster access than other means of communication

So that's why I'm in. And you may always be surprised by some unexpected good things that may happen in the process.

Thaumata said...

Writing twitter off for people sharing small annoying details is like writing off all of facebook because someone sent you a zombie bite. All social media can be like that, and all social media has the power to be better. That has nothing to do with twitter.

Twitter's usefulness is most obvious when attending a conference (or when you can't attend and want to know what's happened), for getting real time updates on news in your fields of interest and for following news details you might not hear on the news. using it to tell people what you ate for lunch is overlooking it's potential.

timedalkat said...

Well, first check your hits for this post, as Chris is quite influential and I'm sure he's got your blog a little extra attention by tweeting you up. Besides using it as a marketing tool, it is an amazing experience in the social space. The micro-blog experience mimicks the sms thing we've all come to get used to..short sweet, information sharing. Try it, and give it a month. It takes some getting used to.

Mon (holistic mama) said...

I really do NOT want to hear what you had for breakfast, or what CD you're currently listening to people. However, if you have a sudden piece of web news, then twitter is fab.
Recently, mother bloggers twittered about the Motrin ad (large drug company) and of course it spread like the proverbial wildfire. And these mothers then blogged about it, and THEN Motrin changed their ad! Within days.

It's like blogging with a conscience and for social change, but faster. Even more power to the people.

Howard Greenstein said...

Were it not for @Chrisbrogan's tweet I would not have found this discussion, learned from you and the other commenters, and added you to my reader. What else can I learn from your tweets?
- Howard Greenstein

Jen said...

I'm here because of Brogan's tweet. I LOVE twitter, I have gotten 3 of my clients from twitter connections. I do a weekly segment where I flaunt small green businesses and my lineup for the next month and a half are businesses I have come across on Twitter. If I have a question or need advice... Twitter to the rescue! Looking for giveaways, great blogs to check out... Twitter. Why am I here right now writing this... Twitter. It great for business, connections, a laugh, to help someone out, news. It's pretty much all I use for social networking.

Tee said...

My original post on Twitter, when my opinion was not unlike yours:

The top 10 things that converted me:

1. Easy to make quick broadcasts by txt msg (vs. waiting until we stop to write whole blog entries) while we were on a long trip and readers were following along.

2. I'm a journalist; being able to spy on dozens on conversations has been a great wait to get feature ideas.

3. The stress relief in being able to volley funny one-liners back and forth with friends (and watch that circle grow as others got in on it) when I'm on deadline or otherwise under pressure.

4. Ask and ye shall receive: I've put dozens of tough questions out there to the Twitterverse (who has an adventurous recipe for chicken? who's tried such-and-such software program and is it worth it? etc...) and rarely fail to get intelligent answers back.

5. In turn, I've answered questions asked by people I follow and sparked some really interesting discussions.

6. During newsworthy events, Twitter folk are awesome at posting the underbelly of any story, with links to published details you don't normally find in the mainstream media.

7. Good, old-fashioned debate. I've changed a few minds, a few have changed mine. It's a good exercise in horizons expansion.

8. Quick sale of little stuff. I've unloaded a few books and a Treo 650 just by posting their availability on Twitter.

9. Topical interests, even specialists. If I want to follow what's happening not only in the field of geology but what's on the minds of geologists, I guarantee you I'll find a nice handful of them on Twitter - easy "intellectual voyeurism."

10. Friends, of course. Hard to beat finding a friend on Twitter you've only managed to connect with in person or by phone once or twice a year, and then suddenly have them and the updates in their lives right there in your world any time you log in.

Give it a shot!

Karen said...

I'm afraid some Twitter addicts are too radical. They don't want to understand the feelings of those who aren't into Twitter. All they want is to force their own points of view onto others.

I like Twitter very much, I can't deny. But it isn't as if I couldn't live without it. Granted, via Twitter I've learned new things, met interesting people, found clients... Still, I insist: it isn't as if I couldn't live without it.

In case you open an account in the future, here's a friendly warning: be careful of who you follow, because some people tweet TOO MUCH. What's worse: they believe this is the right thing to do and won't take criticism lightly. Many use lame excuses such as "I'm not tweeting personal stuff, I'm only sharing useful info and links." But it doesn't change the fact that too many tweets in a row, all from the same person, are a nuisance.

LadyOTrout said...

Kathy- I learned about your blog, BECAUSE of twitter. With so much random stuff to read out there, I would never have learned about you or your delightful blog! You do blog, so I have to believe that you do want to share some parts of you or otherwise you would write it only in a journal and hide it underneath your bed. Twitter has allowed me to ask STUPID questions as I learn about these tools myself of people that are happy to share with me. The silly updates are just things that give the virtual person "real-ness." But I am bookmarking your blog - I like it! check out mine at see what you think?

GeekMommy said...

I don't know you. I've never been to your blog before... But I came here via a Twitter link.

The power of Twitter isn't in posting, actually, it's in listening. When we blog, we are effectively pursuing the Internet equivalent of a lecture. We stand behind the podium, deliver our piece uninterrupted, and then have a little Q&A in our comments. (Albeit some folks opt out of the A part and just let other people comment amongst themselves.)

When we twitter, it's a different experience. It's not an uninterrupted soliloquy - it's a conversation.

More often than not, people use the metaphor of a cocktail party.
Yes, there will always be the weirdo in the corner talking to the plant. There will be the skeezy guy trying to chat you up. There will be the guy trying to sell you something, too.
But amidst all that stereotypical chatter, there are also amazing people. People who have these incredible ideas and share them. People who have fascinating conversations - but rather than saying "oh, I read something about that on the internet, I'll have to send you the link later" they are instantly privy to it.

You really can't appreciate why we all twitter until you are following and being followed by around 50 people. Then this funny thing happens - you want to log on all the time because you want to hear it.

Am I passionate about Twitter? Yep. Can you tell?

Hope to see you over there.


Amar Patel said...

Hi Kathy,

A tweet by @chrisbrogan, who I only just started following today, drew me to your blog.

Yes, Twitter is weird at first... I didn't get it either... I think of it as a stream that I can dip into... it kind of makes sense. I'm not even sure it's about making friends... for me it's about hearing opinions that interest me. I don't know @chrisbrogan personally, but something interested me, so I'm following him to see if he's got something good to say.

Yes, there is sometimes a filtering process you need to go through, but there are some gems in amongst the banal personal updates.

I suggest you have a look at some Twitter tools to help you consume the information in an easier way.

Good luck!

Sharlyn Lauby said...

Like many others, I am visiting your blog because of a tweet from @chrisbrogan. The statement alone should give some credibility to what Twitter can do.

Are there people out there who abuse Twitter? Sure. Just don't follow them.

There's alot of cool people with great info on Twitter. Have fun with it!


JenX67 said...

I think Twitter is more than the virtual water cooler. It's the virtual golf course. I swear - peeps are making deals on Twitter, and in a town like OKC, you can connect with people you've heard of, but never really knew. It can be great for business. Having said that, it is WEIRD. I go on once a day at best, sometimes, I miss an entire week. But, every time I do, the same person has updated on the home page I pull up at least 5 times. I think she tweets all day long. Probably while she, ummm, pees. =0 I read an article a few months back - it was about how cool it is to NOT be able to be Googled. My husband has worked hard at this. LOL!

Pace said...

*shrug* Why not try it for a week and unsubscribe if you don't like it? Otherwise it's like saying you don't like cauliflower if you've never tasted it. (:

Son of Arachnid said...

I have been aware of Twitter for a while, but managed to finally get convinced into giving it a go this week. I've been using it for 3 days now and I'm hooked in.

I'm not so interested in people's personal thoughts and moves. I use it to get live updates on topics I am interested in.

If someone has posted a blog or an article on a topic I'm interested in I want to know about it.

Conversely I've started sharing anything interesting that I come across too.

Plus I came across your blog from a post on Twitter from Chris Brogan. So if anything you should sign up to Twitter as it has given your blog a lot of publicity.

Chad said...

I think GeekMommy said it best, "The power of Twitter isn't in posting, actually, it's in listening." Using Twitter as a discovery tool has been extremely powerful in my everyday life, whether it is for personal or professional growth.

If it weren't for twitter, I wouldn't have found Chuck's great blog promotion idea, which led me here.

Tee said...

D'oh. Forgive all the typos in my previous comment - some journalist, huh? (it's early!)

James A Woods said...

Twitter is one of my favorite web tools.

While it's true that some people on Twitter bombard you with the minutia of daily life, you don't have to follow those people. I mean, who cares about what song you're listening to, or what your eating for lunch or your unussual bathroom habits.

I only follow people who provide useful info or those who really fascinate me.

Recently, I asked a question of my Twitter friends, and Chuck Westbrook provided me with a highly useful link just minutes later. Where else can I get so much value in such a short time?

Kristin T. said...

As I wrote earlier this week in the post "Why I care what you're eating for lunch" (which you already commented on), Twitter is useful. It's where I tend to first hear breaking national and international news. People on Twitter help other people get jobs. They share advice and recommendations, they make you think about important issues in new ways, and they raise awareness and funds for social causes. I’ve even seen notices for missing children and calls for kidney transplant donors on Twitter.

More importantly, though, I love the whole "ambient awareness" thing. As a freelancer who works alone most of the time, Twitter makes me feel like I'm in a busy office full of cool people. I rely on it for those water cooler interactions and the laughs.

Mishi said...

I. LAUGHED. SO. HARD. When I read this post. I can totally sympathize with how you feel about twitter. I started using it - but not make updates about my life (I'm not really into that) so much as to record funny things I hear people say.

I've seen people communicating via twitter. I think it's a little strange, but I'm trying to be open minded about it.

This how I use it: For some strange reason, I always overhear people say crazy funny stuff. Things I would never imagine anyone would actually say, and that I could never be clever enough to make up. But I can't hold them all in my head all day long, nor would they make sense all smashed together in one post. Sometimes I don't want to tell the story of what I was doing when I overheard them - I just want to share what they said so that someone else can laugh too. So, I tweet this snippets - sometimes from my phone, sometimes from my desk at work.

People laugh and comment things like "Where did you here that?

Then I do it again.

Johnny Truant said...

Kathy/Kathryn, you're not going to figure out if you like it until you just do it. You could always abandon it.

I didn't get it either. It seemed very much like, "Why should I CARE what these people are doing?" But that's narrow thinking.

It allows you to meet and to network very easily. People are willing to "chat" (not literally) on Twitter because you have to say everything in 140 characters. In and out. No being long-winded.

Plus, as big as it is, it's still a small community and unknown to the world at large. You can find relatively well-known people there that you wouldn't be able to contact another way. And they'll talk back... unless they're super-famous.

It's a chance to "be yourself." If I had to pick one web 2.0 tool that I've gotten the most traction out of or the one that's netted me the most traffic/publicity, I'd vote Twitter hands-down.

Rebecca said...

It's not about privacy. Twitter is opt-in after all.

I thought Twitter was really stupid too... BEFORE I joined. I also wasted years of my life being afraid of sushi. Years without the best thing on earth!

Don't knock it until you try it :)


the sassy kathy said...

good heavens my sweet Internet buddies! look at you being all convincing! hmmm...

Gretchen said...

Because it's everything the internet should be--user-friendly, entertaining, and informative. Just try it and see how you like it! You'll be hooked in no time. ;)

Jodith said...

Seriously, if you tweet everything you do all day, you won't have very many followers. Because you'll be boring.

On Twitter, I usually post my blog posts, and I post links to things I'm reading. Generally, after that, I mostly reply to other tweets or ask an occasional question.

I wasn't that sure about twitter at first. I'm a serious introvert and don't really like to be contactable in real time *laughs*. It's why I like blogs, forums and e-mails. If I want to hide and not have constant interaction I can, but when I *do* want to interact, I can do that as well. It's why I don't do IM. I don't *want* to be that accessible.

Twitter is good because it has the time delay of e-mail but with the immediacy of IM if you desire that.

I've been twittering two months, and have really enjoyed it, much to my own surprise.

You can follow me on my more professional account (admnarts) which pretty much only tweets to do with office admin stuff, or my more personal account (Jodith) where you get a lot more about me and my thoughts.

Jodith said...

I forgot to can freakin' follow John Cleese! (user name johncleese). Yes, it's really John Cleese of Monty Python fame. How cool is that!

Anya said...

I started using twitter in order to stalk the programmer. We both travel for business so much that it's a way for us to keep up with each other and our friends with out having to constantly phone each other (I HATE talking on the phone, and his is always dead). From there I started making a lot of new contacts and learning a lot of new things. And it keeps me from rambling too much b/c boy, can I

GEMMERZZ said...

you're absolutely right -- i use it to update my facebook status and random bits on my blog while i'm on the road.

i also signed up so no other 'gemmerzz' would. hey, you never know. :)

Jody said...

It's an additional way to have quick fun on the internet. Dip your toe in, and eventually it will suck you in. Plus you can meet interesting people that way.

Robyn McIntyre said...

I agree with the comments about getting news, "overhearing" the thought processes of people I'm interested in, learning from other perspectives, and gaining help. I also tweet to give help. I love being able to provide an answer or a link to relevant information - makes me feel as though I've done something good for the day, however small.

Kristin T. said...

It's me again. Just thought of one other thing I like about Twitter: Your tweets can be very helpful when it comes to creating blog posts. You can either scan your recent tweets to find a nugget of goodness to expand on in a post, or you can create a post with a series of tweets connected by a theme.

I don't do it often, but here are a couple of recent examples:

Chocolate air, Dancing Queen & other Chicago stories:

Life imitates craft, in six stages:

(Have we convinced you yet?)

Mary H. Ruth said...

I'll go back and read all these comments (are you converted already?) but just had to let you know, I've been tweeting for just a couple weeks, and am awed by it mostly cuz it's so mysterious. If you only follow people you really respect, and set it up so you don't see their @ replies, and then do tweets that are solely about sharing really cool things (you experience at least few way cool things every day, right?) - then it all begins to make some (incredibly dynamic) sense.

Don't worry, I and everyone else did not originally even vaguely like the concept of Twitter as we understood it. You gotta be there, do it, then you'll see.

IMHO (Sorry so long-winded.)

Anonymous said...

Convince you? I can't do that.

I can tell you that I like Twitter. I enjoy meeting people (online) who I would never otherwise have me. I enjoy reading what they're doing, what they've learned, what links they think are worth sharing.

But I've had a blog since 2003 and a personal web site since 1995. I've been on email lists for years and participated in Usenet news groups in the late 80s. It's all the same to me -- interacting over the Net with people you've never met in person. Writing things that someone else might read. Reading things that someone elsehas written. Sharing. Joining the Internet Worldwide Community.

But if you don't like that? If you think it all sounds creepy and you're not even sure why you're blogging? I can't convince you. After all, you don't know me, or any of the rest of us who are commenting here.

But, because you asked (even though you don't know us and find the idea slightly creepy :) I can suggest you try it. Maybe you'll like it. Many people have.

Stacey Snacks said...

I have always been a TWITTER HATER, however after reading some of these comments, I may have to finally join the tweet.

Just don't tell me what you are doing every minute.........I'm on the toilet!

LisaNewton said...

I'm an on again, off again user of Twitter, most due to time issue. When I'm there, I love it.

It's about connecting with people I wouldn't have otherwise known.

It's about learning from others, and I mean learning alot.

It's about sharing, caring, and just plain conversation.

BTW, on a side note. Online friends can become "real" life friends. Via a different venue, I met a close friend, who started off being only online, then telephone, and then we met in person. We only met once because not long after that, he passed away, but he entered my life at a time when I needed someone to help and support me. I'm not sure I would have made it if it hadn't been for his undying support.

Oh, and if by chance you might think this was some type of online romance, you'd be totally wrong. He was 79 years young and I miss him dearly.

Anonymous said...

Twitter is just a web-based instant messaging system. I use it as such.

Stacey / Create a Balance said...

I cannot convince you b/c I don't get it either. I'm on board, don't update my status often, and keep my status updates related to my blog. I don't need every one knowing I just returned from a sushi filled lunch w/ my family.

Jen at Semantically driven said...

I was initially a skeptic of Twitter but I've jumped in and I'm still there (@jenseeya). At the moment it's more of a personal thing for me, but it is really handy to find out what's immediately happening out there. You can search for tweets at