A lot of people love Twitter. A lot (actually a few, but the sentence reads better with ‘a lot’) of the people I love love Twitter. I’d tried it in the past but never been enamoured; however, in light of a recent conversation with one of the aforementioned Twitter-lovers, I decided to give it another chance.
This wasn’t something I wanted to do alone and unprepared, so I asked my tweeting Facebook friends for advice.
‘You can’t treat it like Facebook,’ they said.
‘It’s a public platform, not a place to chat with friends,’ they said.
‘You need to follow lots of interesting people, and hopefully some of them will follow you back,’ they said.
‘But you have to tweet regularly,’ they said; ‘if your account looks dormant people won’t follow you.’
‘Don’t forget to use hashtags so people can find your tweets,’ they said.
And thus it was that I set myself a Forty-Day Twitter Challenge. I determined that for the next month-and-a-third I was going to use Twitter every day. I was going to tweet like a crazed budgie, reply to other people’s twitterings, and follow lots of interesting people. I was going to fall in love with Twitter.
To begin with I absolutely hated it. I kept forgetting to put hashtags on things and, unlike Facebook, Twitter doesn’t allow you to go back and edit your posts. I found the 140-character limit too restrictive, and I was disappointed by the general lack of interaction. However, things did improve. After about ten days, I’d gone from violently loathing it to just viewing it with mild disdain.
Two days after that, though, disdain had matured into contempt. I’d used it. I’d tweeted. I’d followed people. I’d commented on other people’s stuff. And it still seemed so utterly, mind-numbingly trivial. Its novelty value seemed to be wearing off.
Yet again, I turned to Facebook for advice. (You see, I’m not a social-media-phobe. I love Facebook. I love its friendliness, its intimacy, its humanity. From Day One, it seemed like a welcoming sort of place, where everything was easy to find and everyone was happy to have a new friend join the group. That’s not to say I haven’t managed to upset a few people on there and have arguments with them – but even that’s a personal connexion. Twitter seems much more like shouting into a void and hoping someone – anyone – might respond. Or as one Facebook/real life friend put it, ‘like standing in a busy pub eavesdropping on the mostly inane and trivial conversations going on around you.’)
People were kind. They suggested different people/accounts I could follow to make the whole experience more enjoyable. When I complained about the character limit, they told me how I could post longer, sequential twitterings, or get round the problem in other ways: ‘View it as writing headlines,’ I was told, ‘and attach a screenshot or a link to your blog or Facebook if you need to say more.’
I guess that might work – but, well, (a) it doesn’t seem very efficient; (b) not everyone has a Facebook account; (c) I don’t want to set some of my Facebook posts to ‘public’ just on the off-chance someone from Twitter might want to read them and then have to reset the others to ‘friends of friends’; and (d) I only click on links if I think I’m definitely going to want to read them, whereas I’m quite happy to read longer posts if they just come up on my newsfeed (or whatever Twitter calls it), and I doubt I’m unique in this.
Still, I persevered. I did. And I’m not giving up yet. I’m now sixteen days into the challenge and it’s an absolute endurance test. I’m hating every second. Friends are seeing how miserable it’s making me and urging me for the good of my health (and their sanity – I moan a lot) to abandon my mission. But I am resolute. Forty days it was and forty days it shall be. But ugh!
Everything about it makes me angry. I was in a perfectly good mood when I woke up, I clicked on there, and now I’m feeling stabby.
I’m still struggling with saying anything meaningful in 140 characters, but, from what I’ve seen, that doesn’t bother most other people. They just tweet banalities: ‘Made a cup of tea in my favourite mug’ or ‘It’s a lovely day. The sun is shining. Might go for a walk.’ I do not care about their tea in their mug – I care about my tea in my mug, but I am not so self-centred as to think anyone else might. It’s good that the weather is nice where they are and that they’re going to go and top up their vitamin D levels, but I have no desire to be appraised of this fact. This is the smallest of smalltalk and I do not think I can dumb myself down to that level.
I’ve tried following new and unfollowing old people, but to no avail. I do not believe anyone can say anything of interest in 140 characters. Frequently tweets are abbreviated to the point of incomprehensibility – some seem to be just strings of arbitrary punctuation (OK, mainly @ and #) and random words and initials — and I give up trying to understand them before I’ve even really started. I go down my Twitter feed thinking ‘boring… boring… don’t care… you said that yesterday… boring… dull… tedious… nope… oh, that’s quite cute… stupid… boring… what does that even mean?… gah, who cares?’ The only time a tweet might attract my attention is if I already know what the individual is going to say because they’ve already said it elsewhere (on Facebook, in the news, to me in person…). On Facebook and other discussion forums, people can at least express themselves and have proper, in-depth discussions. I don’t want to live my life in ‘headlines’ and talk about important subjects via sound-bites.
I also dislike the fact that should your friend retweet something, if you ‘like’ it or comment on it, your ❤ or comment is subsumed into the morass of other ❤ and comments and doesn’t appear under your friend’s retweetment. I think this is deliberate; I think most people want to communicate with the original tweeter and not with the person who’s shared the thing.
‘You can follow celebrities,’ someone said, ‘and comment on their tweets. Sometimes they might even answer you.’ Celebrities, huh? Like I’d know a ‘celebrity’ if one came up and bit me on the bum? Why would I want to comment on their stuff? Why would I care if one answered me? OK, it’d be nice if a mega-rich person (celebrity or otherwise) decided to commission some artwork from me or pay me to translate something for them, but that’s where my interest in interacting with them ends. I’m not going to get all excited and go weak at the knees just because someone famous (or someone not-famous, for that matter) happens to deem my comment worthy of a two-word response.
A friend told me she wanted to make a certain celebrity aware of her existence, so she tweeted him several times a day, even when she’d run out of things to say to him. I wouldn’t have the time/enthusiasm/energy/dedication to do that. It’s hard enough for me to remember to phone my friends when I say I will, or send a simple one-line message to my accountant at tax return time, let alone bombard famous strangers with meaningless messages. He ended up blocking her. I’ve heard (read) other people say that certain celebrities have blocked them, too. It seems to be some kind of badge of honour for them. How can this be something to brag about? Celebrities have no impact on my life; why would I want to have one — positive or negative — on theirs?
And then there are those #PutAFruitInAFilm ‘games’. For a day or two, I thought they were quite fun. Now they annoy the hell out of me. A couple of years ago we played a game on Facebook whereby we took a book title, removed a letter from one of the words, and came up with another title, to which we then wrote a brief synopsis (e.g. The Invisible Ma: a woman’s sometimes hilarious, sometimes heart-breaking struggle to raise her children when none of them can see her) — that was witty; it required more than just ‘Derp… “apple” sounds a bit like “battle” so I’ll suggest Apple Star Galactica‘ or whatever.
Oh, and hashtags. As far as I can see, you can append the ‘trending’ hashtags or you can go to one of those sites like hashtagify.me and see what’s available – or you can just make random guesses at things and hope that other people make similar random guesses (if they bother to look at hastags at all). You see, I’ve tried that. I’ve typed my guesses about what might be interesting into the search box, preceded by a nice octothorpe symbol — only to find utter crap comes up.
I have twenty-four days of this challenge left to go before I’m prepared to admit defeat and close my account. I’m going to stick it out. If you’ve read this far and have any suggestions about how I can become a Twitter devotee, then do – please – share.