Friday, June 17, 2011

OMG! I love Twitter lolz

It has been a tough few weeks for Twitter. Sucked into the UK super-injunction scandal (google Ryan Giggs for more information...) and lately embroiled in the Anthony Weiner affair (it was hard on Twitter, hard on Weiner...), there seems to be no shortage of people out there willing to condemn the whole network. I have a good friend who can't even bring himself to mention its name; just the thought of it causes him to hurl all manner of insults, with 'infantile,' 'moronic' and 'inane' featuring highly.

Two years ago before I signed up I might have agreed. Even for a few months after I signed up, I might have agreed. To begin with, I simply couldn't see the point, or the attraction. With Facebook, there were photos, there was no word limit (140 characters just felt way too short) and a host of people were using it already. On Twitter I knew no one, didn't know who to follow, and not surprisingly given my attitude, very few people followed me. My early tweets were self-promoting, pushing my books, this blog, friends' books, and still I didn't have very many followers. It just wasn't for me, I thought. I resolved to keep it as a tool to help shill books and that's it.

Then something changed. A few people I knew turned up, or I discovered people I did know or sort of knew who were using it. I followed them and we swapped lame jokes. No real difference to email or a texting or even phoning. But it meant I spent more time on there. One of my friends might tweet one of my lame jokes to their followers. They would follow me. I would follow them. The people I followed would retweet interesting tweets from the people they followed, and I would follow those too. Often these were links to interesting articles and blogs.

It soon became clear to me that Twitter was very useful as a kind of bulletin board, with people linking to various things that interested them. If you followed them, it meant you might be interested too. My reading became much more widespread, global even. Twitter also happens in real time. People tweeting from the scene, or what they might be seeing. So it was invaluable for breaking news events that might interest you, often more informative, up to date and less prurient than the rolling news on television. Then there were occasions when I couldn't watch a sporting event, but wanted updates. Twitter was great for that too, people commenting on the action as it happened. Sounds dull, but if you're at a wedding, especially your own, or some other function and you really, really need to know the score...Then there's that feeling I often get, watching a sport game, when something happens and you want to discuss it. Except there's no one around and your wife isn't interested. Though there are people on Twitter and you can bet they're discussing it too.

It wasn't long before I was sold on the whole business. I followed some people because they were informative, some because they work in the same business, some because they follow the same sporting team, and others because they are funny. No one forces their opinions down your throat, and if they do, or you think they are infantile, moronic and inane then you simply stop following them. It is painless and easy (though a slight bruise to the ego when you are the person being unfollowed. 'What did I do?' you want to ask.) You get to pick that people that interest you and ignore those that don't, which is pretty much how it works in real life.

Twitter has become part of my life. I check it regularly, more than that if something is breaking that I'm interested in and want updates on. It has also proved enormously helpful. Recently, I bemoaned the lack of a local fish and chip shop. I got about five suggestions. I pick up music tips from people who share my tastes all the time. It also helps with work. I'm researching early 1950s London. I tweeted asking for any recommendations on books about the era and got at least a dozen suggestions, as well as a few interesting folk to follow. I don't tweet the minutiae of my day - that would be inane - but if something vexes me, or amuses me, or angers me, than I might share it. It's a conversation of sorts, and for a writer cloistered in a room all day with just his thoughts and a blank screen, it's a nice release. And if I'm ever tempted to try and pretend to be a lesbian in Damascus, I have friends and family on there now who will pick me up on it and keep me honest.

I've reached the point where I tweet about anything but writing (don't worry, I still push this blog from time to time...). I get annoyed when I see fellow authors join Twitter and do nothing but push books, appearances etc. Your average Tweeter hates that. It's only worth joining if you're willing to join in. Only if you engage with people, and are prepared to follow them, will they follow you (make a note of that, Mr Dalai Lama - more than one million followers, yet he doesn't follow anyone - some people just take the p***.)

It's fine people don't like it. I can respect that. It isn't for everyone. Like life, it is littered with fools and poseurs. But I don't like it when people look down upon it, as if it is evidence of the end of the world or signs we are dumbing down. That's just wrong, in my case at least. I feel better informed, better read, and more widely in touch than I ever have been. And as for that 140 character count, in my view it actually promotes brevity and more concise communication. It's the enemy of self-indulgence. Which can't be a bad thing.

If you do join though, be careful: sending pictures to other users can backfire.


Dan - Friday


  1. Dan, you always have the most fascinating posts. From books (JR Moehringer's "The Tender Bar") to that software program for writers I can't remember but could desperately use for my latest project, and now a Twitter primer for the sensible users. I might even try it. Only one question: what's a "p***"? Is that a special twit category?


  2. Thanks Jeff. I've got to try, what with you hitting clean-up behind me...(the software program is Scrivener).

    P*** is a not a twitter term (though they are very annoying - i will never, ever call my Twitter friends Tweeps no matter how much I like the service or them...). It is a slang term for urine, and the taking off it is done by those who have no scruples or conscience, like old @dalailama (only joking DL, but, hey, follow me and we can talk.)

  3. Never mind Jeff's post. The real groaner joke is the comment on Anthony Weiner.

    I really lost my brain when I tried to follow the rules of Twitter. It is beyond my limited capacity to learn new things. I applaud anyone over 30 who can figure it out and I am convinced, again, that everything new under the sun is for people under twenty who haven't yet filled up their brains with anything important.

    Kids and bill paying can occupy a lot of space in the cranium. I applaud your ability to learn, absorb, and become part of the Twitter community.

    I wouldn't have any followers. My friends still spend an incredible amount of their free time trying to understand how their new cell phones work.


  4. I agree with Beth, the "hard on Twitter, hard on Weiner" bit is too much for a groan-up to take. I shall now install Scrivener (thank you) and p*** off into silence.


  5. Unfortunately, Weiner's name evokes all kinds of puns, and the soap opera is probably over with a thud. I don't twitter because I can't figure it out. Facebook is fun though. I'm a dinosaur though. I don't even have a digital camera. It's ok. I love reading you guys online, in books and I'd just as soon do that.

  6. Hm. I have got to the must-tweet-because-all-writers-do-it stage, but I haven´t really got my twitter epiphany yet. Perhaps because my many blog friends give me far more reading inspiration than I can cope with already.

    Well, maybe I´ll wake up one day to realize I can´t live without the steady stream of tweets, but U am not so sure.

  7. I personally find Twitter moronic, although I use it dutifully, like every other writer who isn't Michael Connelly. Did you know that there are websites in the Philippines called things like "" that are made up of people who, for $5 per hour, will tweet anything nonstop?

    Also, if I'd been Anthony Wiener, I would have begun my political career by announcing that my name was pronounces "Winer." I would have said that six or ten thousand times before I did anything else at all.

  8. Sorry Beth, it was a lame gag - but some days I can't resist them. As for absorbing new things, there is a danger that things like facebook and twitter can take over the more important business of writing. But that's why I'd rather enjoy Twitter; it's something to do in your spare time, rather than a chore that feels like work.

    lil, I spent a few months puzzling over Twitter. As I said, Twitter's not for everyone. But to get the most from it you have to get into the spirit of it, and you have to use it to get the hang of it.

    Tim, Dorte, much of the appeal depends on the quality of the people you follow and interact with. It was only when I started searching out and following people - rather than waiting for them to come to me - that it clicked. I have to admit, my interest in sport and desire to read as much about it drove much of it. But I have become increasingly clued up about things like ebooks by following certain people, and have been pointed at certain blogs and articles I would not ordinarily have come across.

    I think some of those Filipino tweeters have been working overtime for Charlie Sheen.

  9. Dan--

    You're NOT a lesbian living in Damascus? Damn. I gave to start reading these things more carefully.


  10. And I HAVE (not gave) to start proofreading them as well.

  11. Very funny Lenny (or, indeed, lol).

    It's mistake I frequently make. Often my Tweets are the same. There's a blog post to be (badly) written about hitting 'post' when you really haven't read it throuhg.

  12. Hi Tim,

    Actually there are one and a half writers who don't use Twitter. Michael Connelly is one of them...

    I'm sure it's good for bulletins and chatting as Dan says, but how many hours are there in a day?


  13. For evoking the quality of twitter in THIS thread that he did, Dan surely deserves an official Twitter high-five...whatever combination of x,o,#,and* that may be.


  14. For evoking the quality of twitter in THIS thread that he did, Dan surely deserves an official Twitter high-five...whatever combination of x,o,#,and* that may be.