#confusion or Old Man Brian Shakes His Fist at Twitter, or Martha and Me

via quesomanrulz.com

I keep waiting for the fun to kick in and for everything to finally click. I’ve groped in the dark, blindly hoping that I would eventually come into the light and have my a-ha! moment. I even convened my own travelling clinic, consulting trusted experts. But try as I might, Twitter in my eyes is still less microblogging revolution than bewildering Fail Whale of duplication.

I’ve been tweeting for about 10 weeks now. I’m following 17 people and have a paltry seven  followers, who have (hopefully) been hanging on every precious character of my 83 tweets, a fuzz more than one a day. I trust this meets the criteria for a good faith effort. I do not want to be labeled that worst of social networking pariahs, a “Twitter Quitter.”

It’s not that I mind that it’s mostly trivial and frivolous. I don’t mind that at all in fact. No, most of my confusion deals with my perception that Twitter and Facebook have duplicate functions. I’m told I just don’t understand. That Twitter is useful in exciting new ways my friends just have a hard time articulating.  This wouldn’t surprise me. Actually, any comparison to Facebook actually offers a reason for me to stick with it. I didn’t “get” why I should care about the News Feed when that became the central, default function a few years ago. (I resisted using Google’s Reader and somewhat ironically, blogging). Now I get it: generating buzz about the slightest thing in your life (sociologists call it “ambient awareness”), whether it be a posted link, a status update or a photo, is intoxicating. Yeah, there’s the utility of a customized news drip, the handy event planning function, that whole who’s stalking who thing, the reconnecting with old high school friends thing and the reconnecting with old high school friends you didn’t know were friends thing. But I’m convinced that central appeal of Facebook is that it is a digital stroking of the ego: I really don’t care about letting people know I just found a fantastic new place for pizza, but I desperately want them to let me know they know I found a fantastic new place for pizza. What’s that? Someone “likes” my photo? YEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!

People I really respect tell me Twitter is a godsend, and that I will learn to love it. Their entreaties fall of deaf ears. Or, if you prefers, their tweet-pleas go unread. #fail. Thus far, I’ve been trying to shoehorn the Blue Bird into my Facebook mindset and the results suggest Twitter is too much effort for a less organized and less readable result. (I concede that this probably isn’t the way to blissful Twit-Zen, but right now it’s the best way I know to proceed.) My sentiments are outside the mainstream, it would seem, because online consensus seems to be that Twitter is much simpler (this graphic declares it “very easy to navigate,” whereas Facebook is too “complicated“). If there’s a way to easily follow threads/conversations on Twitter, I haven’t found it. I went three weeks before I figured out that three people had replied to a particular tweet. I’m constantly jumping into threads mid-stride and am unable to get my bearings. Yes, my Twitter naïveté could account for this oversight, but if that’s the case, I don’t think Twitter should have allowed me to overlook this. Installing Tweetdeck has helped a little bit, but not enough. Also, I find the @s and #s and shortened links irritating and distracting. Yes, I realize their purpose and utility, but it hurts my eyes. Call me a whiner if you must.

I’m told the 140-character limit is liberating, but if my unlimited Facebook updates are normally under 140 anyway, why should I care? “Yeah, but this is microblogging, not necessarily a status update.” I don’t buy that. Status updates were microblog entries before microblogging was a twit-twinkle (twittle?) in its daddy’s eye. “Yeah, but on Twitter I don’t  have to deal with all the Farmville, Mafia and John Doe took the Sex in the City Quiz and is a Charlotte crap, especially when you and I both know John Doe is a Miranda through and through.” Facebook allows you easily hide easily categories of updates like Farmville and Mafia as well entire users (but then why are you friends with them in the first place?), so I see this dividing marker as invalid. Every person/entity I’m following on Twitter also has a Facebook presence that nearly duplicates the other. Yeah, Facebook can suck you in, but so can Twitter. In all things, moderation.

Of a list of 20 things Twitter does very very well , I don’t see any reason Facebook can’t be used for the same thing, while other lists of Twitter pros just goes over my head entirely. (Even this, my all-time favorite Twitter “thing,” could just as easily been morphed into Facebook.) Again, duplication is the crux of my struggle.

I’m also told Twitter – being public and searchable – is more news oriented than Facebook. I can almost see how being public and searchable makes Twitter a useful news gathering tool. I’d like to understand this better, seeing as how I get paid to be the web guy at a news outlet. But from the news production side, it’s still all just theory; I’m not seeing the results. During out beta testing for our organizational Twitter feed and Facebook page, we’ve seen roughly 10 times the response on Facebook. (This could be the result our target demographic being predisposed to Facebook for a variety of reasons that I’m too tired to delve into.)

“But Twitter lets you connect with someone you don’t know!” Well la-dee-freakin’-da. Why the heck would I want to contact them? Why would they want my contact?

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just getting old. I’ve almost arrived at the conclusion that since I have a larger base in Facebook to begin with (25x larger), that is the garden I’m going to cultivate.

Even though I’m on Twitter merely out of a sense of technological obligation it’s not a hassle or pain (especially with smart phone combined with a third party app that handles both Twitter and Facebook simultaneously). I. JUST. DON’T. GET. IT. Then I begin to wonder if I should even try. I’m perfectly awesome without Twitter, so why rake myself over the coals?  Ahh, but that’s the point. I want to understand it, to be in the know. In my mind there’s this vague notion that Twitter is the choice for a more mature, discerning elite crowd, while Facebook is unwashed masses. Twitter  is the Ethiopian fair-trade organic roast; Facebook McDonald’s new McFrappe. I want to be part of the in crowd. I don’t want to be left behind. I want to be a good 21st Century citizen.

Heck, Martha Stewart has endorsed Twitter over Facebook, and I dare not oppose her, at least not when I’m unarmed.

If you hold the Twitter Rosetta Stone, tell me. Please. It’ll give Martha and me something to talk about.

(The phrase “Old Man _____ Shakes His Fist at Twitter” stolen shamelessly from The Daily Show)

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5 responses to “#confusion or Old Man Brian Shakes His Fist at Twitter, or Martha and Me

  1. My favorite thing about this post is that the image is from quesomanrulz.com. What a good website name.

  2. “I’m perfectly awesome without Twitter, so why rake myself over the coals?”

    That was MY favorite thing about this post.

  3. I am amazed that this is the longest blog post ever and it’s about Twitter.

  4. Longest post? It’s only 7,029 characters. You’re right though, it is the longest post on brianon.com. Just had to get it off my chest I guess :-).

  5. I don’t get it either. I’ve tried too, but I like Facebook better too.

    I hope someone sheds some light on this though! I’m very curious!!

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