Cafe Witness

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Five Faces of Twitter

Having used Twitter for several months now, it's become part of my daily routine, riding shotgun in my sidebar (I use Tweetbar almost exclusively -- no SMS for me) and accompanying me throughout my web-connected day.

Unfortunately, not everyone on my Twitter list is following me. That's okay; I'm not following all of my followers either. We're all entitled to be selective to whom we offer up our precious eyeballs, and sometimes a person we don't know very well isn't worth adding to our stream.

What follows is a crib sheet of ways YOU can use Twitter (for good or evil).

Twitter as Confessional

Some people believe everyone in their lives is interested in every remote detail about them -- where they're going, where they've been, what they just ate... or will be eating... or wanted to eat but didn't...

For them, Twitter is like an ever-morphing diary, in which they can publish every syllable of their internal monologue for all to see. Fascinating as this may be to the confessor, it's seldom ever as interesting to the confessor's followers, who frequently feel compelled to Leave that person's Twitter stream.

And yet... this is the kind of person who's the hardest to delete from your stream. Because you feel like you're actually deleting the person, rather than their endless trickle of self-rationalization.

Then again, perhaps the two are inseparable...

Twitter as Open Mic Night

Is everything in your day a potential punchline? Twitter lets you hone your stand-up comedy skills into top form.

Thanks to their 140 character limit, you're forced to keep it short, sweet and punchy. The altruists in this category simply seek to beam some cynical sunshine into the lives of their fellow Twitterers throughout the day. The cynics use it to erode attention spans ever further, strengthening the snack-based culture and prepping their bits for Thursday nights at the Comedy Shack.

Twitter as Megaphone

Some folks have over 1,000 followers on Twitter... while only receiving messages from a few hundred people that they actually know. This "megaphone" approach insinuates that a person is believed (by the masses) to be someone worth listening to. This person, in turn, has little interest in listening to the masses.

This creates the awkward effect of that person's followers responding to his / her Twitters without realizing their voices aren't being heard. That's fine; it's everyone's prerogative to control their information influx. Who would want 2000 responses to "Anyone know any good WordPress plugins?"

But once you discover YOU'RE not being heard, there's that inevitable moment of technological embarrassment that follows -- a phenomenon singular to Twitter, or possibly chatrooms in general -- in which YOU feel like a dweeb for trying to have a conversation with someone who doesn't consider you to be worth listening to.

(Ironically, NO ONE ELSE knows you're not being heard. Everyone else in your Twitter stream naturally presumes you're having a two-way conversation -- after all, why would you voluntarily talk at someone? But YOU'VE realized you're not, and now you feel that sting of social snubbery that can only occur in enclosed text boxes.)

So what do you do? Delete that person from your list and save yourself from being talked at monodirectionally all day? Or come to terms with your place in this person's life and continue to receive their stream because it's just THAT INTERESTING / FUNNY?

(Note: If you're me, you almost always delete them. I don't have time to be talked at.)

Twitter as Bulletin Board

Perhaps you don't care about conversations. Perhaps you just want to announce what's going on in your world to an army of faceless consumers / fans / political pawns. In that case, use Twitter as a catch-all for promoting every blog post, video or magazine article that features you in any way.

(This approach is essentially the "professional" version of the megaphone model, in which you're not interested in being personal in the slightest. In fact, you're probably not even a person. You're probably just an RSS feed, and you'll never read this anyway.)

Twitter as a Replacement for Leaving the House

With your friends 140 keystrokes away at all times, who needs to actually BE THERE?

Couldn't make it to SXSW? You could have been -- by following their Twitter (when it was being updated).

Don't feel like driving across town? Watch a movie and Twitter your thoughts about it instead! Soon, others will chime in, furthering the conversation. Fire up a cup of coffee and convince yourself this is much like hanging out at someone's house with other flesh and blood creatures.

Just make sure they're all following you, too, or else you might end up having that conversation with yourself.

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  • I like twitter because people used to make fun of me when I talked to myself. Now I do it on twitter and I am on the cutting edge of New Media and Social Media.

    By Blogger Mike McAllen, at 3:29 AM  

  • I guess I'm somewhere between the megaphone and the bulletin boarder. I have conversations, but rarely *in* the twitter stream. I pluck from the stream, form an email, and go on with my day. Sometimes, I get in DM conversations, which are great until you have to delete all the DMs. Still have 52 in there.

    So I dunno. I've given up on it being a conversation. It's more the simulation of a conversation hiding lots of data I use.

    By Blogger Chris Brogan, at 5:56 PM  

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