I recall briefly hearing about Twitter about a year ago and quickly shrugged it off as yet another Web 2.0 thing that may/may not make it. That's easy to do these days, seeing that there are so many ideas (good and bad) out there. We have a hard time deciphering which ones we should care about. Which ones are meaningful. Most importantly, which ones are worthwhile.
Full circle. Twitter. What is it? To broadly define it, I consult the great, all-knowing Wikipedia:
Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send "updates" (text-based posts, up to 140 characters long) via SMS, instant messaging, the Twitter website or an application such as Twitterrific. These updates are displayed on the user's profile page and also instantly delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them.
Makes sense, right? Users just update their Twitter profile with whatever they're thinking/doing. We can read, or subscribe, to others' updates. It's not necessarily a blog because the input amount is restricted, hence the term, micro-blog. Still don't get it?It's been described to me as an blown-out version of "My Status" on Facebook, which I think is a pretty good description.
Okay, so I understand what Twitter is. But now, I'm trying to discern WHY is Twitter so hot right now?
Let's look at an example post that I grabbed from the Twitter home page:
lots to do today, luckily it is gorgeous outside. think I may open some windows and air out the house
Um, so what? I want to think that Twitter is a technology that let's people just talk whenever they want to. You know, the person who just needs to say something out loud all the time, like, "ooo, that person's hedge needs to be trimmed down about six inches," or, "I think I left my gloves in the bucket next to the back door." Just let it out, people, if that makes you feel good.
But I'm telling you, no one cares that you're going to open the window. No one cares that you just burned your toast. No one cares what you think about Brad Pitt at this very moment.
For me, I don't have time to communicate every little thing about myself and my plans, schedules, thoughts, etc. For those who do it, I'm astounded that THEY even have that time. And when I sit down and think about what Twitter is, and what it does, I'm still baffled.
Todd pointed me in the direction of this article about the 5 ways smart people are using Twitter. It's a good read. I won't go into detail here about what I think of each point, but I will say that I agree and disagree in areas. If you want more uses of Twitter, check out the 5 ways to use Twitter for good.
All good and fine reasons (maybe). But it still wasn't enough to convince me that Twitter is worth all the rage. That's when I started watching how a friend of mine is using their Twitter account... and that's where I started to round the corner.
In this day and age it's widely known that communication is becoming more and more impersonal. From emailing to Instant Messaging to text messaging, we're quickly abandoning our faces for our computer screens and cell phones – think about how we interacted when email wasn't as prevalent as it is now. Face-to-face communication is great, but I feel that we're trying to find more and more ways to get away from it. SecondLife is a prime example of just that. Why do we need to live virtually when we have a life right here? That, I'll never understand.
Where MySpace and Friendster started, I think Twitter could be starting to close that gap. Social networks were created to connect friends – either ones that already knew each other, or those with common interests. At the rudimentary level, Twitter is simply a short-message blasting system. Twitter allows you to tell your friends (or everyone if you don't mind them knowing) what you're doing/thinking at that given time. It's allowing us to connect, albeit NOT face-to-face.
Is it bridging a gap? I don't know. I don't think that abusing Twitter is the best way of going about it. Like I said, no one cares if I've had two slices of pizza while watching Prison Break. But my friends might care if I'm about to head down to Harry's Country Club for Happy Hour. They might care if I'm going to see one of their favorite bands play in an hour. They might even actually care about every little thing I do (damn stalkers). Who's to say?
Instead of picking up the phone and telling my friends that I just did this, or just thought that... I can put it on my Twitter page (if I had one), and then it's up to them to read it. Just like this blog post you're reading right now. It's out there, now it's your decision to read it, or not.
I think Twitter could be great for circles of friends. I think it could be great for company's brands. But I still think it'll be a while before it really catches on and is fine-tuned. MySpace didn't really work until all of my friends were there. Facebook is the same way. Twitter is just the next in line.
I'm not saying that I'm in love with Twitter, I think I'll wait and see on this one. But it doesn't mean that I'm against it, either. What it does mean, though, is that I still don't care if you decided to wear your brown shoes, that smell like ass, today.