This is a post about Twitter. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I said I’d never do a Twitter post but people persist in asking me to explain what on earth I’m talking about.
And I’m gradually getting tired of giving my tough love “here’s the thing, you’re doing it wrong” talk to people who’ve tried it and think it’s boring or stupid. It’ll be a lot easier if I can just send them a link.
And anyway, I promised two readers of this blog who are Twitter newbies that I’d give them some tips.
The great debunking begins.
You know what? People talk a lot of trash about Twitter but really that’s just because they’re doing it wrong.
And can you blame them? Well, you could, but please don’t. It’s not their fault. I blame the Twitter myths.
Yes, it’s absurd that something so young has already acquired a stack of associated myths and legends, but there it is — so let’s take these babies apart. It’s debunking time, my friend.
Twitter Myth #1: It’s “microblogging” or something.
Uh, no. That’s not what Twitter is about. It’s not “microblogging”. No one says, “Oh, boy! You know what I feel like this morning? Microblogging!” Yuck.
(And, by the way, even if there technically was such a thing as microblogging? So what? Microblogging — for those of us who aren’t social media consultants — is an empty, boring, meaningless word. Meh.)
It doesn’t matter anyway whether it is or isn’t because everyone is wrong, and actually that whole tiresome “Gee, what is Twitter?” debate is completely over, because what Twitter is, as it turns out, is a bar.
It’s a bar.
It’s the local neighborhood bar/cafe thing where you hang out. A multi-dimensional neighborhood bar/cafe thing.*
*Only it’s online. And sometimes from your phone. I know. Get over it, it’s the future.
Why do you hang out in your neighborhood bar/cafe thing?
Because it’s your local. It’s your place. It’s where your friends are. It’s where you make new friends. It’s where you go because sometimes being smart and funny in your head just doesn’t cut it.
Is it always cool? No, sometimes it sucks. Maybe no one you like is there. Maybe it’s that new bartender who plays weird music. So you leave. But you come back later anyway because the good days are so, so good.
This bar/cafe/whatever has the awesomest people in the world and yes, some that are just not your people. Hey, it’s up to you to choose where to sit.
If you sit where people are talking loudly on their cellphones, blowing cigar smoke in your face or hitting on you, then yeah, it’s probably going to be yucky and horrible.
If you find a corner where a bunch of smart, interesting people are talking about smart, interesting things, it’s going to be engaging and soul-nourishing. And fun.
If you go and don’t talk to anyone, you might well wonder why you shouldn’t just have your beverage-of-choice at home. Yes, in that case it will be boring.
So. It can be the best bar ever or just that lame place on the corner. Your choice.
Twitter Myth #2: It’s about answering the question “What are you doing?”
No, no, no. This is a misunderstanding of almost tragic proportions, unwittingly perpetuated by the hapless Twitter regime.
If you try to follow the rules according to Twitter, you’ll get lost in a hurry. They ask you right up front to play the game by answering the question “What are you doing”. Do not answer this question! False start. Fail.
Twitter is not about “What are you doing?” in the exact same way that real-life conversations are not about “Hey, what are you up to?” even though they might start that way.
If you try to talk about what you’re doing (unless what you happen to be doing is boxing a poodle while stilt-walking with your poodle-booter troupe), you will almost certainly be boring.
And the first rule of Twitter is “Do not be boring!”
Worse, you may tend to be honest. You may say things like “Eating a banana” or “Taking my kid to soccer practice”.
I refer you to the first rule, mentioned above.
So what should you type into that little box?
Well, the question Twitter really means to ask is “What are you thinking? No, what are you really thinking?”
Or: “What do you think about the thing that you’re thinking?”
Or: “How about you let that voice in your head do the talking for a minute, eh?”
You know that inner voice? The one that narrates a steady commentary of funny, meaningful, goofy and profound things that you usually just say to yourself and no one ever gets to appreciate?
Twitter is that voice’s new home. It is where that voice goes to hang out. Because that voice needs a voice. I mean, it needs a bar.
Twitter myth #3: It’s a time suck.
Uh, no. Twitter does not have to be another procrastination thing. Again, I think you might doing it wrong.
It really only takes a couple of seconds to post something. There’s a 140-character limit, for heavens sake.
Then you take three to five minutes to catch up on what everyone else is up to, and you’re done.
It’s pretty much always going to be a shorter break than the “Oh, I’ll just check my email” rabbit hole.
And here I’ll briefly put on my giant “Hi, I just wrote a book on Dissolving Procrastination” hat so that you trust my expertise on this ….. Twitter is so not the enemy. It’s not. It’s one of the few “right-sized bite-sized” breaks you’ll find on the internets.
Twitter is recess. And recess is good for the soul. Yes, it can be a time suck. So can anything. Including poodle-boxing. But if you use it mindfully as a quick in-and-out, Twitter is actually a productivity tool.
A fun productivity tool that also doubles as the weirdest but most successful marketing technique ever and is also a bar. Beat that.
Twitter myth #4: There are no problems in Twitterville.
Okay, this is a myth that I just made up. A mythical myth, if you will. Twitter is far, far from a problem-free zone, but here are the three main issues and their solutions:
(1) As with any bar, there are people who come to get in fights. Some of these are people who just genuinely enjoy a good brawl and some of these are people who are mean, hurting, hate-filled trolls.
Don’t hang out by that one pool table if you don’t like fights.
(2) And as with any bar, there will be some creepy guys who want to buy you drinks. You use body language to tell them to back off (that’s the block button) and if they overstep, report them to @oddfollow and to
the shift manager the Twitter people.
(3) And of course there’s the fail whale.
Sometimes Twitter is broken, and usually just when you really need that metaphorical whiskey or cup of coffee or whatever and your hands are shaking. It’s time to face up to the fact that you are addicted to Twitter. No worries. You’re in good company.
Take whatever smartnesses you were going to spread to the world and turn them into a blog post. It will be back later. Join the Fail Whale Fan Club. (I’m not even kidding, there’s a fan club.)
Or you can just go to IsTwitterDown.com and press the refresh key over and over again like a rat hoping for a yummy, yummy food pellet. We’ve all been there. It’s okay. You’ll be fine.
See you at happy hour, right?
If you want to follow me
I’m the one in the pink angora beret I go by @havi. Just so you know, I sometimes say horribly inappropriate things that I would never say here. That’s because it’s a bar.
It’s also my very favorite place on the internets. It’s where that voice in my head likes to hang out. And I pretty much go wherever she goes.
If you want me to follow you back, talk about poodles. Or start up a conversation. I don’t bite.
Special thanks to Laura Fitton aka @pistachio who accidentally inspired this post by being awesome.
This is the best Twitter post EVER! And believe me, I have been reading a lot of them.
I’m giving Twitter a second chance, after trying and giving up a while ago, and I really needed to read this to feel a little more optimistic.
Love the post…Lisa from fitforpaper sent me here. You made me smile and rethink a few things. Thanks for that. See you on Twitter.
.-= Mary´s last post … ReloMary: @fitforpaper – You are 1 creative genius. I’ll be thinking about all your great suggestions and we’ll get this done yet! =-.
Thank you, Havi and Selma. I have been a Twitter chicken so far. Keeping my head down and pecking at the ground, so I don’t have to look up and see what’s going on around me. So, now I have decided – I will follow your duck and not be a chicken. 🙂
thank you again – Melissa
Twitter makes for instant connections in soundbytes. Somewhat similar to small talk. So the bar analogy makes sense. Do you go there to read genuinely, or to post, and see others read your posts? If both, to see and be seen, then I applaud you.