Twitter’s appeal: People love the mundane

I’ll have to admit, this Twitter grows on you.
A couple of years ago, I hadn’t even heard of Twitter, and even a year ago I wondered what the point of it was.
Twitter is called a “microblogging service,” which allows one to post whatever he wants online, as long as it’s no more than 140 characters. Twitter basically asks the question, what are you doing now?
And most of the posts (called “tweets” in Twitter parlance) indicate that a lot of people have no real life, and should stay away from computers. I mean, how many posts about the mundane can you endure?
It’s this mundane stuff that seems to be much of Twitter’s appeal. And, it’s become huge. According to ComputerWorld, people are tweeting from the car, the theater, from restaurants, even from the can. But, the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology studied these short messages — actually from Jaiku, a microblogging platform that Twitter is practically edging out of existence — and suggests most of the posts are beyond inane. And the Oxford University Press studied 1.5 million “tweets” and came to the same conclusion.
Newsweek columnist Daniel Lyons calls Twitter “a playground for imbeciles, skeevy marketers, D-list celebrity half-wits, and pathetic attention seekers,” citing folks like Shaquille O’Neal, Kim Kardashian, znd Ryan Seacrest as regulars in TwitLand.
“It’s morbidly fascinating, kind of like the forbidden thrill you get watching Maury Povich’s show or professional wrestling,” Lyons wrote. “You know it’s awful. You know you shouldn’t enjoy it, yet you can’t look away. That, I’m afraid to say, is why I’ve come to believe that, of all the hellish things that have been spawned in the fever swamp that is the Internet, Twitter may turn out to be the most successful of them all—not in spite of its stupidity, but because of it.”
Lyons said that one recent study — though he didn’t cite it in his article, so the findings are immediately suspect — said that 40 percent of tweets were “pointless babble.” Only 40 percent? My own study, using a time-honored methodology called “pulling numbers out of my butt,” suggests close to 70 percent of tweets are mindless, worthless wastes of server space.
Shoot, I don’t want to know what you’re having for dinner, unless I’m invited. I personally don’t give a rip that you’re going to the bathroom now, and I REALLY don’t want to know how it came out. Are we on the same page here?
Twitter is one of those things where the machine is invented first and you find out what you can use it for later. And, so far, a few put it to good use. It was someone on Twitter who brought us up to speed, real-time, on the election protests in Iran a few months ago. Someone else used the microblogging service to send us the first pictures of that plane crash in the Hudson River in January, the one where the pilot did such an incredible job of keeping all his passengers alive.
I’ve picked up a few blog ideas from tweets, and some interesting reading has come my way through Twitter. A few job leads. And, I notice businesses use Twitter to introduce product lines, throw out ideas, you name it. Used properly (and I’m sure there’s a trick to it), one with good leadership chops can build his own ready-made parade to get in front of.
When you do the Twitter thing, you find out who else is using that service, and you may elect to “follow” a person. Or someone else may opt to follow you. For a minute that seemed too strange for words, like I’m being stalked or something. But that’s how word about something can get out quickly. I have a mixed bag of followers on Twitter. Most are legit, the kind of folks I wouldn’t mind chatting with over some coffee. But other followers are nothing but smarmy hucksters with an agenda. But since I’m the one making the tweets, I’m calling the shots. I’m pretty selective about who I follow, but am less discriminate about who chooses to follow me. Hey, if the sketchier followers click on the link and make it to this article (and if they’re not easily offended), we’re all cool with it.
Admittedly, I wasn’t really sure what to do with my Twitter account once I opened it. I used it for a while for short, newsy items via text message directly into a sidebar on one of my blogs — like dispatches from last November’s election — until I found out how to post directly to the blog from my cell phone. But after that I figured out how I can use Twitter.
I’m finding it another vehicle for getting word out on my blogs. Both — The Column, Reloaded and The Workbench, Reloaded — automatically drop links into Twitter through a service called Twitterfeed, so you can open my prose directly from there. As soon as I started using that, my readership jumped considerably.
Occasionally I’ll send out a tweet on something else I’m working on, sort of a teaser for this blog. I’ve done this from the computer, and often via text message from my phone. (If you see a ~E at the end of a tweet — or a short blog entry — it means I turned my cell phone into remote control. I love showing off.)
Ooooh, I’m doing something really stupidly mundane now, and I’ve got to let my followers know all about it. A 140-character review to follow.
(Lest I forget: Follow me on Twitter!)
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