February 5, 2010 at 4:00 am
So I’ve been using Twitter a lot more lately and, like most people, I’ve found it interesting but useful and useless at the same time. How is that? Let me explain.
So Twitter is interesting for many reasons. Microblogging is a lot easier than blogging – as is evident by my hundreds of tweets and zero blog posts the past 6 months or so. It allows you to follow interesting people and interact with them – I’ve actually responded to and gotten responded back by both WP Limits and The Ferrett. It allows you to keep up with and see “behind the curtain” on interesting people – web comics I enjoy like Shortpacked and Questionable Content, awesome geeks like Felicia Day and Shamus Young, or even just keep up with friends or friend’s projects. It even allows you to give feedback to companies and get replied back to.
So it’s useful for the above reasons – how can it also be useless? Well, like blogging for every one meaningful @reply or comment you get there are dozen or hundreds of voices lost in the wind. For the common man is there really any use? Also, there is the follower dilemma.
One of the interesting things I’ve noticed is for people follow people incessantly. Now, following some people is part of the usefulness of the service. But there has to be a tipping point. At the time of this writing, and after doing a cleanup of the people I follow, I’m following 74 people. I see hundreds of tweets a day – if not thousands. The fact that people are limited to 140 characters helps but even at that I tend to skim a lot. What is the benefit for someone to follow 200 people? 500? 1000? It’s not like Facebook where you can friend someone and then hide them – so that you can interact with them if need be but they’re not part of your “stream.” If you’re following someone on Twitter they’re always in your stream. I suppose lists help but even they only serve to raise the tipping point by an order of magnitude. Is someone following 10,000 people really following anyone at all? They’re likely not reading most – if any – of the tweets in their stream. So why bother?
I guess the real issue I have is the “popularity contest” aspect – “if you follow me I’ll automatically follow you” mentality that some people have. Yes, you end up collecting followers like Pokemon and have a large audience to blast out your content to – but is anyone really listening? In the cases of celebrities, sure, I can see the point to having thousands of followers – and even following them back as it makes them feel proud and connected to say “celebrity X follows me on Twitter!” But I’m curious if anyone else ponders the fragility of the facade for the common man. I guess my point is that unless you’re someone who would naturally have a larger audience – celebrity, web comic, organization – you’re only fooling yourself.
I’m going to experiment more with lists. I haven’t really yet. Maybe they’ll change my outlook on the “following many people” aspect at least.