Missing the Point of Twitter

I recently read an NPR commentary about Twitter in which the author says he won’t use Twitter because he thinks people should keep their lives private and not broadcast every mundane event to world. Unfortunately, the author is missing the point, and missing it badly.

The power of Twitter is not in telling the world that I’m having a turkey sandwich for lunch. The power is in learning from other people. Twitter is an ongoing conversation about what is happening in the world around us. It’s a stream of consciousness medium that you can dip into whenever you want, or ignore for as long as you want. It’s me as an individual learning from the collective tweets of those I follow, and being able to contribute to that collective experience.

Yes, there are a lot of people tweeting away about every nuisance of their life, and that does get old, fast. But the cool thing about this stream is that you don’t have to follow everyone. You get to choose who you want to listen to – you can filter out the noise. It’s not a broadcast to the world, it’s a selective tuning in to the people and organizations you want to hear from.

With the increase of marketing, spammers, and blatant self-promotion on Twitter you have to choose carefully who you follow, and potentially who you block. I do not automatically follow everyone who follows me. I’m not trying to collect followers, I’m trying to make meaningful connections. There has to be a connection, or I won’t follow.  I also don’t feel bad about un-following people that add too much noise to the Twitterstream. Author Matthew Wayne Selznick (@mwsmedia) summed it up pretty nicely with this tweet:

“Sigh. Even the tweetstream of one of my favorite blogs, @WritetoDone, is mostly linkballast. Communicate! Be human — at least mostly!” (link)

The key to Twitter success is not having thousands, or millions, of followers. It’s following the right people and building connections. It’s who you follow, not who follows you.

6 Responses to Missing the Point of Twitter

  1. Scott Hewitt says:

    In the last few weeks I’ve used Twitter in some really interesting ways. At a conference they had a twitterfall that allowed for questions to come in from the floor whilst not interupting the presentation flow.

    I’ve also just been involved in developing online icebreakers using twitter, shared google docs and online apps.

    Thinking how to use any app in different ways is the really exciting part!

  2. Scott Hewitt says:

    I’ve just found a couple of videos about twitter in the classroom that I’ve posted on our twitter feed. http://www.twitter.com/realprojects – 2 very interesting pieces fro the US

  3. Ed Storck says:

    I signed up on twitter awhile back, but have been having trouble understanding what I would use it for and how. I too heard that same NPR article and agreed with what was said at the time. I am seeing a different opinion here on your blog. It makes me begin to understand how I might consider it in useful ways, such as maybe seeing what other people are doing daily and thus maybe get a clue for first time how human beings are actually relating to the world. Could this be twitter’s real value, allowing us to see the human world unfiltered?

  4. If you’ll forgive the self-links, here’s the value I get from Twitter in general and from live tweeting from events.

    And though I was skeptical when I first learned of it, I find the informal weekly Twitter-based conversation, #lrnchat, to be engaging, stimulating, and worthwhile. Like f’instance the lrnchat site where a transcript of each week’s chat gets posted, usually within a hour after the chat ends.

    • Dave,
      Thanks for sharing the links, information sharing is good. Which is why lrnchat is great. I haven’t been able to join much, but when I do I find it fascinating. It just shows how fast new tools can transform our interactions with people.

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