Monday, February 16, 2009

how not to be a drag on twitter: a primer for newbies

Since my recent outing in the Wall Street Journal, several friends have opened Twitter accounts to find out what all the hoopla is about. They send me a tweet and I go to their stream and find I am one of, say, two people they follow. Ordinarily, I'd be flattered to be the almost exclusive recipient of their attentions. But on Twitter, it's frustrating. Because in social media no (wo)man is an island and if she is, she's (unbeknownst to herself) being rude.

The biggest misconception about Twitter (at least among my, ahem, age group) is that if you post enough interesting things, people will read them and be overcome with desire to follow you. So the stream of many newbies is post after post of observations or musings that have nothing to do with what anyone else is saying. It's as if they're in the middle of a cocktail party to which people from all over the world have been invited, and choosing to talk to only…themselves.

Granted, what isn't obvious to those of us who grew up before Facebook and MySpace, to those of us educated when the virtue most drilled into schoolchildren was self-reliance-- is the idea of why twitter exists in the first place. It's to make connections. Not connections to just anyone. But to the people who harbor the same interests and idiocyncracies you do.

Say, you're interested in 19th century poetry. Don't just sit there sounding like Norton's Anthology. Take on the persona of a 19th century poet (Checking just now, @emily_dickenson is available) and strike up conversation with Robert Frost and Henry Thoreau and Ralph Emerson and countless other "poets" who already exist in the twitterverse. Or, do a Twitter Search for key words like " 19th century poetry" and discover conversations others are having on the subject. Conversations you are more than welcome to join, if you do so politely, just as you'd join a conversation that is already in progress in the real world.

Start following the twitter names of people you converse with. Follow the people who follow them. Chances are, you and they have something in common. If you follow them, they'll likely follow you back. Pretty soon, you'll have built up a community. One you'll probably want to hang out with every day. This, of course, can create other problems. My family is still debating the need for twittervention.


Will McKinley said...

Great points. Thanks, from a Twitter newbie.

Jeanine Marie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

MP3 ya later

I go get my records from the cold, dark basement - while you go in for thumb replacement.

As they all close in for my ultimate detention - I pine so hard for the third dimension.

While you search online for some better lovers, stare I will at the album covers.

MP3 ya later, it's no crime, I just lived in a better time.