|Alternate title : Tweeterpated. PUNS!
Keen-eyed observers may notice that I’ve added a Twitter widget on the right hand side of my blog. This means if you get tired of reading my blatherings, you can read an entirely different set of blatherings. This is as good a time as any to harp on about my love affair with The Twitter.
I resisted joining Twitter for the longest time. “It’s just Facebook statuses,” I’d grumble. “Just a bunch of people talking about their dinner,” I’d scoff. “I don’t see the point, so I’ll not bother joining up,” I’d assert. And so on and so forth.
Curiosity got the better of me in the end, though. I set up an account, followed a few friends and a couple of celebrities & waited for something to happen. Now it’s nearly three years later and Twitter is an essential part of my life. In this post, I hope to explain why.
Twitter is far, far more than just a network of food-fanciers. It’s a network of information, social media the way it’s meant to be. When the rumours started about Michael Jackson’s death, I was in on the ground floor. When the riots recently shook Britain, I was able to follow the events as they unfolded, glued as I was to the feed. If a notable figure passes away, Twitter swiftly informs and eulogises. If a comedian opens his mouth and promptly puts his foot in it, Twitter is there to tut and/or defend. Usually both. Sometimes in the same tweet.
What’s good about the information on Twitter is you let it come to you. You choose the outlets. Sick of having the Daily Mail’s fearmongering ways thrust upon you ever day? Unfollow. Feel like being exposed to a bit more culture? There are hundreds of film/theatre/general arts related feeds out there. Want to only follow those whose opinions you’re likely to agree with? Not a problem, no one will think you’re a sheep for choosing to do so. Prefer to follow those you disagree with for the debate value alone? Fair enough, that’s common practice too. There’s no pressure to follow anyone in specific and there’s no shame in changing your mind and unfollowing someone. It’s an accepted part of the process.
Twitter’s also a good way of finding out what your favourite celebrities are up to. They keep you informed of their movements, promote special offers and let you know about their upcoming projects. They’re also full of advice, anecdotes and general wittiness. Some of them are rather more full of themselves than they are of the other things, but you can always give those ones a wide berth.
Far more important than either the news sources or the celebrities, though, are the ordinary folk. The people who use Twitter to talk to friends, those who use it as a means of venting, those who use it to share their pithy ponderings, even those who use it as a soapbox. The difference is palpable; here there is a sense of community that it is easy to find yourself a part of. No matter how many celebrities follow you back or even engage in conversation with you (Phil Jupitus once asked me my opinion on vampire films vs zombie films. I almost died.), you’ll always feel a sense of otherness that you simply don’t get when you fall in with certain crowds on Twitter.
The difference between Twitter and Facebook as I use them is simple. For me, Facebook is exclusively for friends and acquaintances. If I’ve exchanged words with you on more than one occasion and we have things in common, I’m likely to be OK with you adding me on Facebook. If you’re a stranger, don’t expect me to add you. Facebook’s privacy settings are rubbish enough, thank you. But Twitter is a different kettle of fish. You go into Twitter expecting everything you say to be public, so you don’t tweet details like phone numbers and other sensitive details. It’s not set up to host hundreds of pictures of yourself. It’s for sharing short, sharp packets of information. And you’d be surprised how many strangers care about what you have to say.
This here is the main reason I keep logging into Twitter every day, the reason I have Tweetdeck on my phone and the reason I tend to have a computer welded to my lap. My followers contain a core of several people that I couldn’t be without. It’s a secondary network of friends, albiet friends represented by pixels and cyberaspects. If you have a bad day, they will comfort you. If you share geeky news, they will squee with you. If you get angry at politicians, they will shake their fists with you. They’re as good as the flesh and blood friends I know and love.
I’ve found that the best way to get to grips with Twitter is to start by following your friends. If you don’t get involved in conversations, Twitter won’t grip you and your account will be discarded and dusty within weeks. Chat to your friends, use it to set up rendezvouses and so on. Next, follow your favourite celebrities. Tweet at them, get involved, build up the habit of conversation. Your efforts will be repaid tenfold later. Once you’ve built up a good list of people you’re following, start playing hashtag games. Hash tags are your friends and your gateway to likeminded followers. Join in the puns. Live tweet Doctor Who, Come Dine With Me, anything that others might be watching as well. This is the best way to meet the best Twitterers.
That’s enough lecturing from me, I think. If you’re dead set against Twitter, do yourself a favour and dip your toe in. The water may seem murky but it’s lovely and warm. Look me up when you get there, I’m @Splend and I’ll be your guide if you’ll let me.