I must be a very savvy social networker, because I use both Facebook and Twitter (and indeed, I even have a Tumblr page). That’s a little inside joke – just between me and myself, because in point of fact, I don’t consider myself to be any such thing. And nothing quite shows up my social networking incompetence like Twitter does.
To back up: I joined Twitter a year and a half ago because: I kept glimpsing portions of Twitter conversations; I heard about ‘tweetstorms’ and was intrigued; my cricket book was due to be released, and as I had noted in my ‘Reflections on Facebook’ series of posts, I had been advised to ‘build a social media presence’; most importantly, because I had begun working on new blogs–this one and one over at ESPN-Cricinfo–and wanted readers. I signed up, sent out a few greetings to folks I knew on Twitter, and began tweeting infrequently.
Flash forward: I have almost 900 ‘followers’; I still tweet very infrequently; I get very few readers to my blogs through Twitter. In sum, I wouldn’t say my Twitter experience has been a ‘success’. I have heard and read about the various ‘strategies’ for being a ‘successful Twitterer’ and find myself unable to implement them: I’m not a very witty and prolific tweeter; I don’t tweet all sorts of ‘interesting’ links to photo-essays, blog posts, breaking news, or even dog/cat/baby videos. I do not retweet others too often; I do not get into long discussions with other Twitterers (or is it tweeters?); I cannot compose ‘tweet poems’; I’m not an ‘influencer’ or ‘thought leader’ or ‘conversation leader’ or whatever. In sum: I’m a pretty useless user of Twitter;
Some of this failure is easily explainable by my indolence. But not all of it: I still find 140 characters a frustrating length for any kind of communication; I do not quite see the point of supplying links that I have ‘found’ on my ‘net travels, which are actually quite limited because most of my time online is spent on a very small cluster of sites. On the few occasions that a tweet of mine actually elicits a response from someone, I either miss it completely because I am not actively paying attention or I get embroiled in a discussion, which I’m always keen to interrupt as soon as possible because I find it too hard to keep up.
At its best Twitter reminds me of Internet Relay Chat channels populated by people with similar interests. It approaches this when there is a critical mass of like-minded folks on my timeline, ‘gathered around’ a live event: perhaps a big game or an election debate or result or something else on those lines. But those events are quite rare; most times, I barely respond to my Twitter feed, not because the content there is inherently dull or anything like that, but rather, because I simply do not have the time to chase down everything linked to there, and because of my reluctance to commence Tweet-conversations, more often than not, I simply bite my tongue rather than respond to a tweet.
I don’t actively dislike Twitter, in the way that I sometimes do Facebook, even though it encourages some of the same narcissistic behavior. Rather, I’m perplexed by it. I don’t understand its appeal for online discussion; I think its role in news and political organizing is overstated; many of its functions are replicable in other forms of social networking. And clearly, I don’t have what it takes to be a ‘successful’ Twitterer.
A year and half on, and I still feel still like a newbie. I should tweet that.