If you don’t use Twitter yet, but have a burning desire to know about it, maybe I can help. Maybe not. By the time I click “Publish” on this post, everything may be different. Still, I’m going to try.
Twitter is a website on which anyone can write about anything as long as it takes up 140 characters or less. (A character is a keystroke.) Posts are called tweets. People who use Twitter are called Tweeple. Twitter users are a real slice of life–there are serious business people, scammers, stoners, intelligentsia, cat lovers, event-goers, and at least one mature writer-coach-trainer-artist. (That’s me.)
It’s true that no matter who you are (or how old, or how fast you can type with your thumbs) there is a lot of Twitter you won’t care about. Before you sniff snobbishly, let me remind you that the same is true of TV shows, the interwebs, the library, and your extended family. In other words, you can pick and choose who shows up for you on Twitter.
Unlike Facebook, you can follow people on Twitter without being friends with them. Following them means you can go to their home page on Twitter and read what they post. You can also post. And if someone isn’t what you wanted or expected, you can simply take them off your list without “unfriending” them.
You can run Twitter on your computer or on your cellphone or mobile PDA or all three. If you want to control your connection addiction, run it solely on your computer and check in with it periodically or post when you have something useful to post.
How do you know whose posts to read? Twitter has a search engine, and you can look for topics that interest you or people that interest you. Pete Harbeson (follow him at twitter.com/pharbeson) who comments here frequently, made a great suggestion: in the beginning, follow a lot of people. Trim down the list when you figure out what you want to read.
You can also use Mr. Tweet to make suggestions once you get a start–Mr. Tweet bases your suggestions on your description of yourself and your follow- and following-list.
What’s the difference between Twitter and Google? Google looks back on the contents of documents and arranges it by how many people looked at it. Twitter plugs in to what people are talking about right now.
I promised you the good: Twitter is fresh, you can find out what interests large groups of people, news buzzes, and updates of events you can’t attend.
I promised you the bad: Twitter is the e-version of the cool kids’ cafeteria table when you were in the seventh grade. You will never be cool enough, but you can carve out a niche.
. . .and the OMG!: Right now, “SXSW” is on almost every post. It means South by Southwest and it’s a media, film, and music festival happening in Texas March 18-22. After the 22nd, SXSW will vanish for something else.
Not OMG! enough? OK, here is a random post–a lot of people seem to like to post what they ate for lunch. I’ve left out the name to protect the guilty: “me to matt: what did you have for lunch? / Ramen Noodles / That’s not very nutritious / well, I had cookies too.”
Follow me on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/QuinnCreative
Next: hashmarks, who to follow, and some links to other articles that demystify Twitter.
—Quinn McDonald is a trainer, life- and certified creativity coach. She is on Facebook and on Twitter. She was not one of the cool kids in seventh grade, but has carved out a niche.