Thursday, July 14, 2011

Overcoming the Terror of Twitter

This was the scariest Twitter image I could find.
Last week, YA author Elana Johnson (who is married to an old high school friend, and the sister of another) posted a great article about Being Brave. (She also wrote a great book, Possession, and I highly recommend you check it out.)  Then yesterday, a teenager bravely honestly commented on my blog post that she finds Twitter scary.

With those two great examples of author braveness, I have to respond to that comment yesterday with this confession: 

Twitter absolutely terrifies me.

Here's what I find scary:
  • Twitter's fast. This is really the issue. Since I started composing this I've received 32 tweets. How can I ever keep up?
  • Twitter's real-time. It is meant to be responded to and acknowledged immediately. 
  • Twitter comes to you.  Twitter isn't like a blog that you visit at your leisure. It is a stream of very short blogs that come to you one after another.  
  • Twitter explodes. Facebook can explode a little as well, but Twitter is actually designed to make it very easy to repeat (retweet) what someone else says and possibly have it cross the entire universe within a matter of minutes.
  • Twitter can be a snob.  There are rules and if you mess up, you can get very openly mocked.
All that being said, there is one simple understanding that will make Twitter manageable: 

You don't have to keep up.  

Think of Twitter like a very crowded stadium.  The largest stadium you've ever seen.  Your house, as well as everyone else who hangs out on Twitter, opens up to this stadium. When you feel like saying something - to anyone, to everyone - you open your door and shout into a megaphone "Blah, blah, blah, listen to me in 140 characters or less." Then, you have a choice to stay and listen to other people's shouts, even respond to them, if you like, or go back in your house.  If someone wants to respond to your shout, or say something that they are sure you will hear, there will be a knock on your door (turn on notification for direct messages and mentions in tweets for this to happen).  While you are inside your house, you do not have to keep up with everything going on outside, nor are you meant to.  Twitter's real time.  When your door is open, you participate, when it's closed, let life go on.

The other problem that occurs with Twitter is getting stuck.  My twitter feed has now had 95 tweets since I started writing this.  I'm not going to read them all.  I might browse them if I feel like it later. How do I know if there might be something good that passed by?  

Here's what I do:

  1. On my Droid, I use Tweetcaster. My favorite function on Tweetcaster? Zip it.  So that I am not constantly notified while I'm mobile, I have zipped everyone except the few people that I have to hear from all the time.
  2. I use Twitter's List function. Lists can be used for many things, but I use mine for the people whose tweets I can't bear to miss; the people that I know have something to say even though I wasn't around to hear it. I simply flip through the list, read the tweets I missed, and then I'm caught up. I can still browse through my regular feed whenever it suits me, but if I don't have time, I didn't miss anything I can't live without.
There are many more and different tools to make Twitter easier to handle and I plan on sharing some in the future. But this is a good start.

Does this make Twitter any less scary? What do you use to manage the beast? 


Krista said...

Yea. This advice helps very much. I myself have been feeling overwhelmed by twitter.

Michelle Fayard said...

Like you, Laura, I finally decided I wouldn't let myself feel guilty for not reading and responding to every tweet, but at first, I'll confess, I was overwhelmed.

With e-mail messages we allow ourselves more time to craft a thoughtful response, and I'm allowing myself the same time when responding and sending tweets. As one of my favorite musical groups sings, "A bigger this. A faster that. Is that really where it's at?" Not necessarily, and that's all right.

I love Twitter, because I can get out short-fuse information ASAP and I love the bird icon. (OK, is that a lame reason, or what?) But with great tips like your for Twitter's list function, I can keep my composure, get the most important news out and keep up with those who are doing the same.

JRo - Jaye Robin Brown said...

I actually love Twitter because I can stalk all sorts of folks but don't feel the need to write or respond. I recently joined then unjoined Google + because it felt too intrusive. But I like your one golden Twitter rule.

Peggy Eddleman said...

Twitter scares me, too. I haven't signed up yet (but I swear I'm going to! Really!), and the normal things about it scare me (like figuring every thing out). But the thing that scares me the most is that it will be ANOTHER TIME SUCK. I already don't have enough time-- I'm afraid twitter will make it even worse!

Laura Barnes said...

JRo- I love to stalk! I need one of those t-shirts that says "Twitter = Stalking, but legal". I haven't ventured into the Google+ yet. Not sure if I will or not.

Peggy - I KNOW!! Such a time suck. I want to ask everyone how they do it. How do they find the time to keep up with it all? Seriously, I want to follow them for a whole week and really understand. Sigh. I'm hoping through this blog we can figure out some tricks together.

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