Cafe Witness

Monday, March 12, 2007

5 Ways Twitter Has Changed My Life (After a Week)

I started using Twitter last Monday.

I was wary. I didn't know if it would be worth my time. I didn't understand how another attention-stealing device could improve my life.

After 8 days of use, here are my five observations:

1. Twitter Is Highly Addictive

This is obvious, because that's what Twitter was built to do. It's designed to enthrall the generation that can't help oversharing with itself, 24/7. But it's WHY in which it's addictive that's unusual.

Unlike a publicly-accessible forum, in which you may or may not particularly care what half the commenters have to say, the members of your Twitter group are all friends you've VOLUNTARILY chosen to "follow." This amounts to a nonstop stream-of-consciousness dialogue with the people whose opinions and anecdotes you inherently care about.

In my case, my Twitter friends happen to be a few dozen of the movers and shakers in the new media space. This colors the information I receive. Instead of inane posts from friends whose lives are no more interesting than where they're eating dinner and what they're watching on TV, I get real-time windows into the offices and mobile lives of the people who are changing the way we communicate.

This enables me to take action or supply information as needed on an instantaneous basis, which means I need to stay connected.

2. Twitter Replaces Multiple Websites and Apps

Twitter is billed as a "better IM" -- or, in some circles, the app that will kill blogs -- but I disagree.

I see Twitter as an ever-updating group chat or forum thread. Here, my Twitter friends can post links to news articles they're reading (or writing), events they're attending, pop culture they're consuming and world events they're considering.

Instead of needing to check Digg, Newsvine, CNN and other rapidly-updated sites all day, I can usually gleam the best of the buzz from my Twitter list. If something's relevant or worth talking about, someone on my list probably mentioned it, and included a link.

Instead of leaving Instant Messenger open all day, I now logon only when I'm looking to communicate with someone directly and privately and may need to transfer files. (I could do most of that directly in Twitter as well, but I have yet to cycle AIM completely out of my bag of tricks.)

And I check MySpace almost exclusively for business purposes at this point, because the people I'm really interested in keeping up with are on my Twitter list -- and I don't need to waste time opening their messages or approving their comments in Twitter; they're just there.

3. Twitter Inspires Me to Do More

Seeing what everyone on my Twitter list is up to reminds me that I need to keep up with their productivity.

At my old day jobs, I paced my workflow against that of my managers. If they seemed to be slacking, I knew I could slow down because the vibe was mellow. If they were stressed out, I knew I'd better keep my head down and get things done.

Now I can gauge the day's workvibe against my Twitter friends. And since the folks I follow on Twitter are all involved in a medium I'm highly interested in, and their work has massive and far-reaching impacts on the medium (and on me), they set the bar pretty high.

Speaking of which...

4. Twitter Urges Me to Be More Relevant

The meta-conversation my Twitter friends have tends to be the kind of conversation that moves a medium forward. At any given moment, a few of them can be asking questions, soliciting advice and making connections. If I'm fast on the draw, I can be part of the problem-solving process.

Twitter is also a great place for self-promotion. Did you just blog about something? Include a link in your Twitterstream. Are you being interviewed at a certain time and place? Mention that to your "followers." New song? New video? New website you've found that no one else seems to have glommed onto yet? Stake your find on Twitter.

Meanwhile, if I've noticed that 3 or 4 of my own most recent Twitter updates are of the "what I ate for dinner" variety, I realize I need to get back to work...

5. Twitter Reminds Me to Get Up Earlier

If I didn't realize I was wasting time by sleeping in before, I certainly do now.

It's embarrassing to see Chris Penn posting a new Financial Aid Podcast, Chris Brogan wading through three meetings, Jeff Pulver flying through twelve time zones and Steve Garfield raising the dead before I've even had breakfast.

Striving to keep up with my contemporaries means I need to get at the workload earlier and hit it harder. Otherwise, the dozens of people who get my Twitter updates will start noticing I haven't been around, and they may presume I'm wasting time... and they might be right.

The Last Word

Despite the downsides to the service -- it's obviously growing faster than it can handle, and it doesn't currently support a lot of features that many of us are striving to find workarounds for (like groups, filtering and "highlight reels") -- the immediate upside is hard to argue.

Twitter hasn't yet changed my life in such drastic tones that I can't imagine not having it around. But it certainly does add a new facet to my daily web life that I'm finding increasingly more dynamic by the day. And it enables me to live at the pulse of the new media lifeline.

I don't believe I'm jumping the gun when I say: The revolution will not be televised -- it will be Twittered.

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  • ...and if you wouldn't have twitterd you updated, I wouldn't have checked. Would you like to celebrate twitters bday with me tomorrow? No one else in our city is on it.

    By Blogger justine, at 12:27 AM  

  • Hmm. this certainly has given me thought to twitter. Justine is it a surprise party?

    By Blogger Norm, at 5:20 PM  

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