Loving and Hating Twitter, in 5 Easy Pieces

I love twitter. What blogging is to email, Twitter is to instant messaging (IM) … and then some. You can follow me on Twitter as Timberry. I’m like a fish with a shiny new thing. And, with due respect to the MSNBC line (if you don’t get it, you’re too old) — I’m 61. But that’s nothing: my 89-year-old dad is on Twitter too.

Consider this picture of Twitter usage published earlier this month on TechCrunch:

Something’s happening there.

1: Vocabulary

But first, some vocabulary (just to get it straight): Twitter is web publishing in 140-character snippets. A tweet is one of those snippets. To tweet means typing those snippets into Twitter. To follow is what you do (takes a click) to get access to somebody’s tweets. A follower is somebody who follows you. To retweet means to take somebody else’s tweet and tweet it again, giving them credit, to your followers. Your followers can also be called tweeps, or sometimes tweeple.

Is it all too cute? Avoid the now-famous Stephen Colbert gaffe with the wrong verb.

2: I Hate Twitter

About Twitter backlash. The Daily Show take on it, Samantha Bee ignoring the interview while peering into a cellphone keyboard, was hilarious. The Twitter Facebook users accuse it of twitterizing itself.  The Google search for “twitter bashing” turns up half a million hits. “I hate Twitter” is good for more than 18 million.

So here are some good reasons to hate Twitter:

  1. Twitter clutter. The “I’m having dinner now” or “I’m going home now” inanities. I did that too when I started, as if I were telling family members “arrived in Denver airport.” I get it now: Nobody cares what you’re doing. Tweet something interesting, or nothing at all (note to self: and don’t try to make cute contractions for Twitter clutter. Doesn’t work.)
  2. Twitter selling. Ads are ads, even at 140 characters per tweet. Infomercial I don’t mind, when there’s actual info — happens a lot — but there is selling going on. (The good news, though, is that you only get that once. Don’t like it? Stop following. A lot like changing the channel. If you don’t follow them, they don’t bother you).
  3. Tweeting at meals, in conversations, or at meetings or movies or events is really annoying.
  4. Tweeting while driving is at best stupid, at worst, manslaughter.
  5. People collect followers. The more, the better. The Twitter version of counting friends in Facebook. Now we have some Web applications designed to get you more followers. Ugh. People measure themselves and compete on number of followers.
  6. It’s really distracting. It gets in the way of getting things done (of course, that’s actually a good thing disguised as bad; the same would be true of everything fun or interesting except work).
  7. I hate it that Steven Wright, the comedian, master of the one liner, isn’t on Twitter (that’s a good thing too, because maybe he’ll start.)

3: I Love Twitter

Consider this an enthusiastic hooray for relationships in 140-character snippets. Crazy as this sounds, ironic indeed, but some of my Twitter friends feel like real friends to me. When they tweet their latest blog posts, I go, I read, I comment. When I tweet my latest blog posts, they go, read, and comment. They recommend me to others. I recommend them. I ask for recommendations, they respond. Sometimes it’s just “I liked your last blog post” and sometimes it’s “does anybody know a restaurant in Portland that does Thanksgiving dinner?”

I blog a lot these days. I care about other people in the same general topic areas. It’s nice to follow them on Twitter.

So, then here are some good reasons to love Twitter:

  1. Keeping up with some professional relationships. I know that seems incredible, more so if you knew me. I’m kind of a hermit. I hate cocktail parties. But I like keeping up with people in Twitter.
  2. Fascinating real-time constantly scrolling updates on interesting new blog posts, news, issues. I follow some people whom I respect, and they point out interesting ideas, posts, etc. I work in tweetdeck, and it’s like having a scrolling world of interesting little tidbits.
  3. Writing. Sometimes good writing. Good tweets are amazing. See number 5, below.
  4. Publishing. Think of it as publishing short snippets to people who want to read them.
  5. Someone’s tweets get repetitive, or become sales pitches, or just Twitter clutter? Unfollow them. It’s as satisfying as changing the channel.
  6. Taking responsibility: people with real names and real pictures. You can’t delete a tweet.
  7. Maybe Steven Wright will get on Twitter in the future.

4: Twitter in Business

Seems like almost everybody on Twitter is a social media marketing expert offering to show the rare non-social-media-marketing experts how to make money on Twitter. Seems that Twitter can be good for people in the expert business. But is it good for business? Or, the question of the last month or so, are you an idiot if you’re in business and not in Twitter?

Twitter is no more good or bad for business than telephones, letters, conversations, or pies in the face. The medium isn’t the message; the message is the message. I have lots of twitter friends who are straight, like it, keep in touch with it, and — lo and behold — that’s good for their business. But is being in Twitter good for business? Nope.

I can’t figure out Twitter and relationships. It’s oxymoronic, and, sometimes, just plain moronic. But it brings me closer to blogging and Web people I like and respect. Paradox, I suppose.

5. A Few Good Tweets

At its best, it really is writing, and a new kind of self publishing. For evidence, I call on David Petheric (clarocada on Twitter) and his post Top Tweets of 2008 on DigitalBiographer.com. He gets the credit for the collection, and I’m choosing just a few:

  • brandmilitia: Sometimes the fastest way to screw up a company’s social media strategy is by letting the marketing department run it.
  • chrisbrogan: Just made a VC choke somehow on my speaker’s fee. Tough times for startups in 09, kids.
  • copyblogger: I’ve got to go on a carriage ride through Highland Park tonight with 4 kids and 3 lawyers. This is why God gave us scotch.
  • boris: “Don’t talk unless you can improve the silence.” — Jorge Luis Borges
  • SaraD: Accidental Death & Dismembership Insurance. I passed on that. I choose Membership.
  • mathie: I need a pair of headphones. Or a shotgun and at least 5 cartridges. Or an office of my own.

There: see what I mean? Good stuff. It reminds me of something that came over the teletype 38 years ago when I was on the night desk at UPI in Mexico City. Rumor had it he put this onto the service and walked out for good. His tweet, 38 years ahead of its time, was:

“Too much work, too little money. I quit.”

And, what the heck, my favorite tweet from my 900-some tweets:

Gray cold comfort. Clouds pressing the forested hills downwards, covering the tops. Ghosts of holidays past. Western Oregon in November.

I felt poetic that day.

Conclusion: a quote from an NBC web story about twitter:

The nicest thing about Twitter might be that it’s a grassroots medium nobody has quite figured out a way to make money off of yet. Not even the guys who created it.


  • Donna says:

    Hi Tim,

    I’m an etiquetter consultant & a writer/columnist for Valley Business Front. I’m quoting you in an upcoming column on Twitter-etiquette. You’ll be able to find the column online around July 1 at http://www.vbfront.com

    Take care & thanks for the good info!
    Donna Dilley

  • Dale Stokdyk says:

    Nice post Tim. And I like the thought of Steven Wright on Twitter. I think I’ll twitter a Steven Wright quote that’s apropos for me right now (as I’m fixing up our 1872 Victorian townhome):

    “It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to have to paint it.”
    Steven Wright

  • ithreesixty says:

    I am going to have to go on the side of loving twitter. I find it to be an amazing way to network, get ideas, and kill a whole lot of down time when I’m out (thanks to twitterberry)! Definitely a game changer in the way people communicate online.

  • Dan Ness says:

    Your experience & sense of poetics may yet inspire INTERESTING Twitter, despite the historic trend toward entropy (see reader comment drivel). I’m reminded of the Horror/Suspense short story winner: “The closet coughed”. Move over, O. Henry.

  • Gonzalo Bernstein says:

    I`m a new user of tweeter and i think its an amazing tool to do all sorts of different and useful things. Just like you said, is up to us to create an interesting network and follow the tweets that are worth it.

    I like the new look of your blog.

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