I joined Twitter in December 2008 (only 21 months late to the party) and pitched hard from the TweetDeck until 2012. Then I took a break. In those 4 years time, I sent about 1,800 tweets; averaging to roughly 1.23 tweets per day. I’m not sure what that means about me or my life, but I didn’t miss it when I dropped off the Twitterverse for 4 years.
It was nerve-wracking jumping back into the digital cosmos; like a grown-up going back to high school. I had kept up with Facebook, where my “friends” were usually people I actually had met in real life. On Twitter existed strangers with whom it was easier to strike up a conversation and yet just as easy to unfollow without consequence. Had I been gone too long to be welcomed back to the party? Were those same people even there? (Yes, mostly) Would they even notice? (Some) Did anyone even care? (Not really). That’s the main thing about Twitter, it’s for you and about you and edited by you so you see only what you want to see.
There’s no guise in Twitter use; everyone uses it for personal gain: to sell products, promote writing, get more views, likes, or hits. Twitter is a little like junk food, satiating temporarily but not nourishing you as deeply as a news story from The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal. My favorite part about Twitter is its potential to service as your electronic, accurately-documented, neatly organized and accessible, virtual diary of your life. I used it rarely for this divine purpose, but during a two-week road trip in 2008, I diligently tweeted at every stop, including gas stations. On my nostalgic scroll down Twitter lane, I indulged in reflecting on my witty banter or revisited my geographic verbal pinpoints. This gift of memory is the secret beauty and true magic of Twitter.
Twitter’s impact goes beyond getting people communicating; a single tweet can penetrate into everyday culture. We’ve become accustomed to this ticker-tape stream of constant and instantaneous information. We think in tweets, we can complain to CEOs through @ symbols and we can safely stalk our celebrity crushes from the couch. A year after its inception, Twitter took the number sign, turned it upside down, rebranded it as a hashtag, and released it like brushfire onto social media. Who knew people around the world could use 140-characters, rallying together, to reignite a 60s-era passion for protests and give it a voice and forum in a digital age?
In college, majoring in journalism, I had entire classes devoted to headline writing. Using the same principles, “say it shorter, convey it faster,” my degree should ensure I would be a Tweeting Queen but I learned I didn’t enjoy delivering the lead-up and the punch line within the constraining 140 characters. Tweets were for the poets of social media, and I thrived with an unlimited word count.
Twitter Turns Ten today and in celebration, they have created a direct link to view our first tweet. Mine was:
Is sending her first cell twit. Sounds like a way to offend an obsessed twitter. CELLWIT!
Let’s not revisit how I called a “tweet” a “twit” or how I thought I was funny and I wasn’t. The lesson is I should learn to be more careful with words which will forever digitally follow me. Twitter is like a detail-oriented, grudge-holding girlfriend; reserving your words up with a side of hashtags in perpetuity.