I woke the other morning with a hazy dream of a Twitter conversation in my head. There was that moment you have when you wonder, did I dream that or did it really happen? It didn’t happen, but it did make me wonder. Am I spending too much time on Twitter when I begin to use it to communicate with people in my dreams? Or is it simply a sign that the tool is pervasive – like dreaming about calling someone on the phone?
A quick look at my past year’s worth of TweetStats definitely indicates that my usage has steadily increased. I remember when I first signed up at SXSW 2007 I thought: this is kinda neat, but I’ll never use it outside of this conference experience. And, you can see that there for a while I didn’t use it. So what was the tipping point for me?
It was discovering Tweetbar – the handy little sidebar for Firefox that lets me keep an eye on Twitter while browsing other sites. It also lets you respond to tweets right there in the sidebar, so it’s ultra simple to hop into a conversation you notice happening. I know there are tons of other Twitter clients out there now, but I stick with my trusty Tweetbar because I’m just too lazy to take the time to download and learn something new when what I’ve got now isn’t broken.
Back to the original question, though – am I spending too much time with Twitter? I know my husband would say yes, but to those who’ve never used Twitter it’s as hard to explain the attraction as it is to explain Second Life. It’s even hard to explain to some who have used it. I read the other day where Misha Cornes of Threeminds blog is breaking up with Twitter. (Ironically, I found the post through an @Armano tweet with the link). But, when he talks about twitter usage as shouting into a void rather than taking the risk of speaking directly to one another, I think it shows that he’s missed something that’s there.
I often talk directly with people – sometimes through direct messages via Twitter, but most often in the public view. TweetStats can even show you who I talk to the most!
The visibility of such direct conversations plays a part in many of my fellow Twitterers’ decisions on whether or not to follow back those people who follow them. More and more followers are coming (can’t believe that nearly 500 people are really interested in the play-by-play of my life) as MSM such as Inc. Magazine begin to talk about it. This expansion of the community has some a bit nervous and prompted Shel Israel to document his twitter follow policy. But others like Prokofy Neva look forward to the conversion from a conversation about tech itself, to “something with substance” as it expands. She sees those who only broadcast into the void as having broken a kind of unspoken rule of social media by not using it as a conversation. I agree on both of those points.
So, while I’ve been contemplating putting myself on a “twitter diet” of sorts, I’m having a hard time figuring out exactly how to do that. Sure I can come online anytime and check the Replies tab to see who is talking to me and respond to them; but, not all the interesting conversations out there (very few, actually) are targeted right at me. If I don’t see them when they happen and join in, then they’re lost in pages and pages of updates from the nearly 400 people I currently follow.
So, I’m going to try to scale it back a bit, but expect that at any moment when I’m online I may be jumping into you conversation and reading the links you’re sharing. And, I hope you will extend the same privilege to me.