Concerned that this might be pointlessly addictive. posted by diamondgeezer [10:15 AM Dec 10th, 2006]
But I've finally got round to writing my 2000th tweet. Actually that's not quite true. At time of writing I'm only up to tweet number 1999, but I'm sure inspiration will hit shortly and my bimillennial offering will slip forth.
I'm very aware that 2000 tweets is a paltry total. Most Twitterers tweet more often. I know this because I've counted. I've been back to check up on the first 25 people I followed on Twitter (or, at least, those who are still going, which makes this a slightly self-selecting sample). Of those 25 people, 24 have already posted more than 2000 tweets, 80% are over 5000, more than half are over 10000 and six are over 30000. I'm not really trying, am I?
I've averaged one tweet every 29 hours between 2006 and now, which sounds like it ought to add up to quite a lot. But when there are people out there dribbling forth their every waking thought in 140 characters or less, my occasional outbursts rank as mere amateurishness. I try to tweet when I have something special to say, rather than spout in quantity, and I think that puts me in the minority.
When I started out on Twitter (user number 54943, don't you know), it wasn't immediately obvious what possible use the service might have. Micro-blogging, perhaps, or the opportunity to reveal to the world what you were eating for breakfast. I fitted in perfectly back then. But since the site truly took off back in 2009, Twitter's made its mark by becoming the communication channel of choice for many, and I'm no longer playing the right game.
Here are five things that other Twitter users are doing a lot of but I'm not. Here's why I'm still only on 2000.
1) Noticing stuff
A lot of messages appear on Twitter because people have noticed something and would like you to notice it too. Sometimes that's great, because it's something you'd never have noticed otherwise. Other times it's less great, because you don't share the tweeter's opinion that it's interesting, except you only find that out when you've opened it. You'll follow a bit.ly link and... oh, it's nothing exciting. You open up an Instagram photo and... oh, is that all it is? Twitter hides stuff behind a cryptic curtain, and you can waste a lot of time craving originality but getting shlock and tedium instead. I have started tweeting photos much more than I used to, now that I own a smartphone which can cope. But I do try to hint roughly what the photo's of in my accompanying text, rather than assuming you'll click a link just because I've tweeted it. And I'm sparse and selective in what I'll invite you to click, waiting until it's something unusual, or vaguely newsworthy, or generally unphotographed. But I'm aware I'm now relying more on photos than words than I used to, and I probably need to mix modes more often.
A lot of messages appear on Twitter because people have noticed something and want to tell you their opinion on it. It used to be that when we read things or saw things we could only share them with a partner or our inner monologue. Now we can broadcast those thoughts to the world, instantly, without having to go to the effort of finding someone to talk to or writing a 400-word blogpost. Hate something in the news? Snark about it in 10 words. Neighbours making a racket? Send a passive aggressive message they'll never read. Watching a TV programme or a sports event? Fire off a stream of one-sided comments as if we were all sitting beside you on the sofa. And a new baby prince has just been born, you say? Yes, we knew already that thanks, now ssssh. I used to do running commentaries on things back when Twitter started. I tried Big Brother entrance nights, and even the Eurovision Song Contest once, but soon learned this pissed readers off. So I stopped early, after which Twitter evolved and users decided running commentaries were the way to go. I may read yours, but don't expect me to join in.
There's nothing wrong in banging the drum for yourself. Indeed those who never promote themselves are liable to be overlooked. But Twitter (and Facebook) have become the means by which many people announce to the world that they've done something, because other people would never notice otherwise. I wrote something somewhere that none of you read, here it is. I took this photo of something fantastic I'm doing now, look at me. I wrote something somewhere that none of you read three hours ago, here it is again. Indeed, no blogger needs a long-term reputation these days, they just need one killer post and wham, everyone arrives to read it. One thing I probably ought to be doing via Twitter is tweeting every post I put on this blog. If I did that you'd be able to retweet my tweet if you liked the post, and that'd give me a warm glow, and might well draw other readers in. But I don't tweet my blog because the feed would become all-enveloping. I'd have pumped out an extra 3000 tweets since 2006, and anyway you all already know to tune in at 7am every morning and there'll be a brand new post to read. I have you lot well-enough trained that I don't need to fire up a daily advert to draw you in.
Back on day 1, Twitter's big question was "What are you doing?" That made it a personal place for sharing activities and thoughts, mostly via status updates, although rather less of a community than today. Then in 2009 the question changed to "What's happening?", which was a fair enough evolution, but signalled the oncoming encroachment of commercial activity. Brands were chomping on the sidelines hoping that we'd follow them and accept their steady drip of promotional messages, and not everybody fell for it, but a lot of people did. Rather than simply mentioning a brand you write @brand or #brand instead, and a portal opens. Some company asks you to retweet a message to enter a competition, and like sheep you do. And Twitter can only get more brand-infested, the underlying business model requires it, diluting the purity of the activity stream still further. I'm not immune to corporate tweets. I'm aware I mention Creme Eggs too often, for example, which I'd argue is because I like them a lot, but you could easily accuse me of chocolate brainwashing. One thing I am a stickler for is removing followers whose purpose on Twitter is solely promotional. If your twitterstream is an endless succession of me-me-me adverts or vacuous retweets, I'll block you straight off. Indeed I'm amazed that I still have 3500 genuine followers after all the crap's been stripped out, that's considerably more followers than posts, which I understand is quite rare.
This is the big one. This is how come so many other Twitter users are on ten, twenty, thirty thousand tweets while I'm still on two. People now use Twitter to hold conversations with folk around town, around the country, around the world. You say something, someone replies, and a lengthy meaningful dialogue develops in real time at no cost. It's a convenient way to keep in touch, and an amazing means to make friends with people you've rarely (or have never) met. But blimey, people are doing this in public, with every utterance 100% visible. Twitter very cunningly made their Direct Messaging system almost completely unusable - hidden away and requiring additional menu clicks - and users now willing undertake their chats under a global spotlight. I remain entirely unwilling to engage in conversation with people via Twitter, because it's far too public and I don't want people knowing what I'm doing. I mean, sheesh, some of you I could stalk to the point of criminal intent. I know which station you're passing through, which pub you're in, who you're meeting tonight, which boss you hate, when you're away from home and burglarable, everything. Some of the younger generation seem content to tweet their entire life without thought of privacy, but I could never expose myself like that. And that's probably the main reason my tweet total is so low - I'm not bumping it up by dozens daily talking back to you lot. It does mean that if you get an @ reply off me that's rather special. But my Twitter presence remains mostly inert, broadcasting one-way only.
When I first joined Twitter back in 2006, fewer than one million tweets had been sent. Now the global total's up to 170 billion, and mine is but a tiny voice in the wilderness. Thanks for listening, if you do, just don't expect the conversation to hype up any time soon. Just be patient and tweet 2000 will be along shortly, any time now, maybe even today.