Last fall I had an email conversation with Lori of Camp Creek, on my woes about writing and trying to build a blog audience. She had plenty of good advice, including something along the lines of Twitter is where it’s at.
Twitter rubbed me the wrong way from the start. A platform for boiling down thoughts into 140-character bits? As a lover of sentences, of long, languorous lines, it just seemed a move in the wrong direction. Seemed like a simplifier, a dumbing-down tool. Like everything that I don’t like about Facebook: how it’s a place for people to update others with banal information that needn’t be shared. In other words, I don’t want to read tweets or Facebook updates about your trip to Costco any more than I want to shop at Costco. (A high school friend who is as popular on Facebook as she was in high school showed me her wall. Someone from the old days had updated about a trip to Costco. Although he spelled it Cosco. As in goin to cosco!)
Those Twitter updates on people’s blogs caught my attention sometimes. Didn’t get them either. All those weird links with random letters. And the highlighted words with pound signs in front of them? Baffling.
A few weeks back I found myself at Maud Newton’s blog. Newton is a writer, editor and NPR contributor and her Twitter updates caught my eye. Her tweets were full of literary links. Juicy literary links. Hmm…
I clicked around among the folks that Newton follows on Twitter–sort of like being that fly on the wall at a cocktail party you wouldn’t be invited to. From there I flitted from one place to another. Other twitterers. Other followers. More hmm-ing…
I began to see that everyone on Twitter isn’t tweeting about trips to cosco. Many tweet with intriguing links. And if you’re an info-freak like I am, you’re bound to be mesmerized. So I signed on. I still can’t quite believe it, but I’m having a fine time in Twitterville.
I can keep up with progressive education tweets at Edutopia. With food news from Michael Pollan and Marion Nestle and Jamie Oliver. With all sorts of random fascinating cultural stuff at Brain Pickings, Tedtalks and Information Is Beautiful. And good reads at New York Times Books and my local indie bookstore. And then there’s Sam Anderson, a New York Times Magazine critic who tweets the best sentence he reads each day.
Not to mention Steve Martin’s tweets about trying to copyright the word the.
I’ve learned that those random pound signs are hashtags, and they serve as a sort of sorting mechanism, making it easy to find tweets on, say, homeschooling. And once you start going down those rabbit holes, there’s no end to the information you’ll find, or the people you can gab with.
(Hashtags have more nuanced uses as well. Susan Orlean explains.)
On days when I get no emails from friends, and the blog comments are slow, it’s fun to cruise over to Twitter to get the news. Sort of like a virtual and global small-town coffee shop. Just takes a minute to skim, and there’s almost always something good. Even if no coffee shop pie.
So yes, I’ve decided that Lori is right and Twitter is where it’s at. Or at least it’s where I’m at. Come visit me there. And if you’re a twitterer, tweet me a hello! I promise not to tweet about going to Costco. (Well, I might try that today. Just for funs.)
In the words of Bambi’s Friend Owl, I suppose I’m twitterpated. Because, you know, nearly everybody gets twitterpated in the springtime.
i’m also surprised at how much i enjoy twitter, though i don’t understand hashtags and such yet. i started using facebook last week and the jury is still out on that way. i’m not convinced it’s going to come back with a favorable verdict either…
(and thanks for the sam anderson mention… following)
So nice to see you here, Heather!
Re: hashtags. I’ve learned that if you have a key word, like homeschooling in a post, if you simply preface it with a hashtag (AKA a pound sign), it will show up when anyone searches Twitter for that term. Also, the word will highlight so readers can click on it and look at a list of tweets on that topic. I’ve already had people come follow me based on my hashtagging of the words homeschooling and education. Such instant gratification!
My friend who designs websites for writers insists that I need to have a Facebook page so dyed-in-the-wool Facebookers will be able to keep up with my blog. So I’m thinking of setting up a fairly robotic Facebook page with blog updates and such, but I’ll ask visitors to redirect questions and comments to my blog or Twitter. Facebook just seems like a deep cave that I don’t want to descend into. You know, goin to cosco!
It’s always fun to see your tweets!
I’ve been afraid to cross into the Twitter world, as I’m already spending too much time on Facebook. As you’ve noted about the former, the latter for me is much more about the constant stream of information than caring what people are having for lunch (although if someone posts that they’re having french lentil salad with radishes and points me to the recipe, as happened a few weeks ago, I’m very happy with that, too).
I’ve found that my social, intellectual, professional and gustatory lives have all improved markedly since joining FB. So I guess dipping a toe into Twitter wouldn’t hurt, right?
Sounds like you use Facebook much as I use Twitter anyway. If you can access the same folks via Facebook, Twitter might not be necessary. But I do think the short posts make info really easy to skim, which is nice. And there are lots of interesting thinkers on Twitter! Plus, it doesn’t quite seem to be the sort of place where lots of old friends from junior high track you down–although I may be mistaken there. Haven’t been on for too long…
Care to pass along that lentil salad recipe? Sounds yummy. I’m always looking for elegant uses for the lowly radish.
I use facebook much the same way you use twitter. I get so many great updates and links to articles and artistic movies and creative ideas. There is some banality – but some of that I like. For while, there was a group within my friends who all posted what they were making for dinner each night. It was sweet and I loved thinking about the kitchens all over the world preparing to feed their families. I am on twitter too (mamameritbadges) and wil have to start following some more interesting people to see what comes across the wire. For your blog followers facebook is great becasue you can pass along great resources that might not make it into your posts.
I never really realized that people use Facebook for gathering info–I thought of it more as a way to connect with real people. But after being on Twitter, I get how all that works now. One of these days I’ll set up a robo-page on Facebook–just updates for FB followers. But I think I’ll stick with the blog and Twitter for sharing resources. I’m spread about as thin as I can go these days. Like the last of the peanut butter.
It’s always good to like a little banality. 🙂
You’ve almost convinced me to try it.
I’m not really trying to convince anyone, although I’ve already dragged one other person in with me. Visit who I’m following on my twitter page, and see if that tempts you! http://twitter.com/#!/wonderfarm/following/people
Been a while. Good to know you are an avid Twitter fan now. I joined Twitter long back but have never been able to be a regular. There is already so much information overload that even a very info seeking person like me is not able to cope. And then, at times I feel what I ‘do’ with all the info is of more relevance than gathering it all the time and then archiving it never to be able to get back to it in a realistic manner.
I have a facebook page too for my blog and I use it more than my personal page (I’m not at all a facebook socialite otherwise). Twitter could be of much more value to me than it is now if I had the time to make it an extension of my blog.
I’m going to follow you on Twitter via @mommylabs 🙂
Following you on Twitter! Nice to see you there, Rashmie.