Monday, July 30, 2012

To Tweet or Not to Tweet…

                Okay, so the self-query is nowhere near as deep as Hamlet’s soliloquy—but in some ways it feels as if it has been drawn out nearly as long.
                I’ve had a Twitter account for several years now, and I have followed assorted people for various amounts of time. During that time, I have sent a total of two tweets: one well over a year ago (I don’t recall what prompted me), and one this morning in gratitude to @JonathanMartin for having tweeted about one of my blog posts. (Read his wonderful 21k12 blog here.)
                I guess I just don’t get the whole Twitter thing. As I’ve followed some people on it, I’ve received very few tweets that I found valuable. Indeed, the only ones I pay that much attention to are the headlines from The Onion. To me, the stream becomes so much gibberish, too hard to wade through.
                Please understand that I am not slamming Twitter as a medium. I’m merely pointing out that it doesn’t seem to work well for me. Or at least I haven’t figured out how to make it work well for me.  But I want to.  Some nagging feeling keeps telling me that I’m missing out on something from which I could benefit. I also am starting to believe I should do this as part of my job.
                Two recent occurrences have me thinking about this more seriously. For some reason, last week I decided to clean up my Twitter account. I deleted some people who I was following, and I added some whose work I respect from other arenas. I added a picture and some slight biographical information to my profile. While doing all this, I saw the aforementioned tweet from Jonathan. Then, having no knowledge of this, my Director of Communications asked me this morning about Twitter and whether I had thought about using it.
                My reluctance is based on numerous factors, almost all circling around notions of what sort of tweeter I would like to be. And not be. So in no particular order, here are my misgivings:
·         I don’t want my tweets to be all about me and/or self-promotion, i.e. links to my blog posts (although those are okay provided they are not the total)
·         People don’t need my status updates. Besides, I have enough trouble keeping up with myself.
·         I don’t want to be an overtweeter, sending out multiple ones every day.
·         I often write to figure things out, and I can see myself thinking through an essay to try to arrive at a worthwhile tweet.
·         The character limit intimidates me. I have to adopt Tom Peters’ idea that it increases rhetorical discipline.
·         The entire endeavor strikes me as potentially overwhelming.
·         Sending out tweets just doesn’t feel like me.
If I’m going to do this, I have to believe my tweets will add to the conversation. Ultimately, I want them to operate like cerebral and/or emotional pinpricks.
                I still haven’t made up my mind, but I’m close. I guess it’s like swimming, and you have to go ahead and jump in. You could follow me @crottymark to see if and when I take the plunge.


Matt said...

Two thoughts:

1) It's not for everyone. I have a hard time using it for professional reasons--the amount of potentially useful information out there is indeed overwhelming--but it's fun and easy way to keep up with far-flung and perpetually too-busy family and friends.

2) I worry seriously that it can become just one more thing that "clutters our minds," distracting us from more immediate--and in many cases, more important--human interactions.

That said, I love your blog, so if you can hit me with 140 characters of wisdom on the regular, I'll certainly read it.

Mark Crotty said...

Thanks very much for your comment, Matt, and for the kind words.

I couldn't agree more with each of your comments.

But I think I'm going to give it a shot soon.


Jonathan Martin said...

Hi Mark:

Twitter is an amazing forum, but it does certainly have a steep learning curve. For myself, it is intertwined with my blogging: it is a key way I share my writing with a wider audience, and I have written before that blogging without tweeting is a little bit like opening a store without a sign.

But it is much more than that too. It is a way to build a steady stream of incoming ideas and inspirations, which indeed you need to filter and manage, but nonetheless, it is very broadening. Clay Shirky likes to say we don't have an information overload problem, we have a filter failure, and twitter, used well, can be that. It is also important to view twitter as a river, into which one dips when one is thirsty but which one lets much water pass by.

It is terrific the way that you can connect with people you know and those you don't, on Twitter. When I wrote something about Steven Johnson's recent book, I could "mention" him, and he responded to my writing. This has happened with many others also.

Best, perhaps, is the sense of camaraderie and collective purpose that can form on twitter among people sharing passions, interests, and ideas-- by passing things along, and encouraging each other, this collective can be very motivating and rewarding. We all want to believe we are not writing out into the vacuum, that there is someone there there, and Twitter can really help with this.

There are downsides, of course, and it is something you turn off and on. But it is a great thing to be part of, and I hope you will jump in.