I must admit to some trepidation when I thought of writing this piece. For one thing, I didn’t want to come across as too snarky, but then again if you don’t like the post you don’t have to read it. Also, there are tons of sites dedicated to how to use Twitter effectively, so anything I post here will likely be the net equivalent of shouting into the wind. However, on the off chance that you might be interested, I will address my top pet peeves about people complaining about Twitter.
1. If you don’t like it, don’t use it.
Seriously. It’s a tool. If you truly don’t have a use for instantaneous communication with people who share common interests with you, then don’t use it. There’s no point in bashing people who find it helpful and enjoyable.
Remember that revolution in the Middle East? The one where people organized by using Twitter? That seems pretty useful to me. Follow news groups to keep up with current events, follow writers to keep up with their latest works, follow knitters if you like to knit and want to find new patterns. But if none of that interests you and you honestly can’t use Twitter, then stop insulting people who can and do.
2. If you are interested in Twitter, take the time to learn how to use it BEFORE you declare it frivolous and without merit.
Too many times people fail to learn about the strengths of Twitter before they give up. Not every tweet is earth-shattering or important, but neither is everyday conversation. And that’s what Twitter is, an ongoing conversation between people of similar interests. That is why it is so important to only follow people who tweet content that you actually want to read. You know what I do when I find someone is clogging my tweetstream with things I’m not interested in? I unfollow them. It’s easy.
And in the spirit of conversation, tweets are short. People in general don’t rattle off a whole page of data when talking to other people; they speak a sentence or two, get a response, then speak again. So tweets are limited to 140 characters. Yet, if someone finds a blog post or news article that they think they’re followers might appreciate, it’s still possible to tweet the link – thus allowing for greater sharing within the character limit with a simple click of your mouse.
3. Twitter is not serious enough.
I recently read a blog post where a poet was bemoaning the death of poetry because people were tweeting poems. Again, seriously? There is just as much good and bad poetry as ever before; the internet just gives people a means to post their own work. I’ve read some poems in 140 characters that were quite beautiful, other’s terrible. And the ones the poet complained about? They were obviously joke tweets.
Yes, people joke on Twitter. Just like when you converse with other people. Not every conversation needs to be about political upheaval, the merits of Shakespeare, or how to write the Great American Novel. Grow a funny bone.
4. They complain it wastes too much time.
Like anything else, social networking can be taken too far. If you obsessively tweet and check your stream, if you let it interfere with your life to the point that you can’t get things done, then you might want to cut back. Twitter can be used for procrastination. Remember that proverbial watercooler that workers would gather around to chat, socialize, and use to avoid going back to work? Twitter is the net’s international watercooler. Use it to socialize, joke, learn new information, whatever you need to do… then get back to work. Don’t blame the watercooler because someone takes an hour and a half break to get a drink of water.
Most of the complaints I hear about Twitter stem from two things. 1. They don’t use Twitter, or 2. They don’t know how to use Twitter well. Give it a try or don’t, learn about it or don’t, but no matter what you decide, please don’t insult the people who enjoy Twitter. No one’s making you use it, and if you took the time to learn about it, I’m betting you would agree that Twitter has value – whether or not it’s valuable to you.