I’ve been forcing myself to Twitter this week. That’s Twitter as verb and a proper noun of course. I say force, because frankly the first time I tried it I didn’t really see the point. But I figured 3 million people can’t be wrong, so I’ve agreed to not only give it some more time, but try and use it properly. Yes, that’s right I was clearly using it wrongly – at least that’s what I’m told by more avid twits than myself, and actually it’s this that interests me most – the idea that you can use a site wrongly.
I think the main reason I didn’t see the point at first is that it was too easy to draw a direct comparison to the larger, more popular social playgrounds – Facebook et al. It stands to reason that a rather late new-comer like myself would look to these larger sites as a way of understanding what Twitter is and why they might want to use it, or whether they need to use it to be a valid member of the human race. At first glance the obvious conclusion is that it’s – “a bit like Facebook but with just the status, and that’s it? what’s the point in that?” – I am quoting an imaginary person here you see. This person is called John; he gets annoyed by knowing what his friends are having for lunch, but he’s got a Facebook account anyway because he’d hate to miss out, so he just grumbles about it.
The “status update” is ultimately a dumbed-down incarnation of the micro blog; a nano blog perhaps? It seems practically every website that you log onto offers you a way to express yourself and validate your presence in some trivial fashion. This dumbing down is much less prevalent on Twitter, which I am now starting to see as its raison d’etre. I was most amused to compare my brother’s tweets to his Facebook status updates. The latter being somewhat inane, humorous references for the masses, and the former being much more considered prose; invariably eloquent and clearly aimed a more selective, professional readership. Not just a man who knows his audience, I thought, but proof if proof be needed that Twitter is much more of a cult than Facebook, and (dare I say?) an occasionally pretentious one at that (yes, I dared). I made the heinous error of adding the Facebook Twitter application which set my Facebook status with each Tweet. I am ashamed that the Twitter audience had to suffer my vacuous existence during that period. (hangs head).
So what would happen if Twitter reached a tipping point like Facebook did a couple of years ago? If people start joining because they find their friends are communicating in some kind of secret club and they don’t want to miss out. Let’s face it (no pun intended) this was the impetus for a reluctant many that followed a geeky few. Of course I can’t validate that statement with any kind of fact, but I’m sure you too have witnessed the annoyance of the non-facebooker. “Oh, sorry I didn’t email you about the party; I forgot you weren’t on Facebook”. – That was Caroline; she likes tagging people but not herself; well, only if it’s a good photo.
Despite seeing a fair amount of Twitter in the popular press recently, I am somewhat sceptical that it will reach the dizzy heights of Facebook, at least not in it’s current form. Extending the platform would defeat its simplicity which is largely the point of it, but if it did become engulfed with 100 million users then I’m sure the community would naturally find ways to block out the sandwich-eating references and get more of the existential poetry they crave without offending their friends. People may just maintain multiple accounts? A case for “channels” perhaps? serving the same purpose as groups on Facebook where you can choose to express yourself as you see fit in more fenced-off areas. Maybe we’d also find out for sure whether Ruby on Rails doesn’t scale. Anyway, I think I’ve rambled enough – tweet me! Do you say that? is that the correct conjugation?