Wednesday, February 16, 2011

An Experiment in 140 Characters or Less

I told the Facebook community yesterday that I have been a closet Twit for the last month. (What, did you miss the press conference?) And it's true: I have been cataloging the events of my life in 140-character statements.

I don't know what made me decide to try Twitter. When I first heard the concept behind it, it seemed inane. In fact, it still does. But it held a certain fascination. For someone who has a hard time "shutting up" when he starts to write, the challenge of saying all there is to say in such a limited space seemed a good way to rein in my sometimes errant writing. Has it benefited me in this regard? I'll let my readers decide.

One thing that I haven't figured out about Twitter so far is what it's good for. I'm following people, and they're following me, but I don't always care what they say, nor, I'm sure, do those who follow me care what I say. I feel in some regard like Twitter is a one-sided confessional. I throw my updates into the ether and hope someone, somewhere hears and cares. I've also tried to make my tweets more than simple statements of what I'm doing, but statements of what I'm thinking. I don't know if I've succeeded in this, but that's my goal. Also to say clever things, though this often falls flat.

I suppose a good use for Twitter (perhaps the best one I've found) is a fast and easy way to spread links. Aside from the RSS feeds I read (which, if you don't have Google Reader or something equivalent to read this and other blogs, I highly recommend), I don't read much on the Internet. Those I follow on Twitter have shared links to articles that I might not otherwise have read (and have even led me to additional feeds to add to my Reader). I also do enjoy clever tweets, and there are certainly some who are better at it than others.

But is that all Twitter is for me, a way to find articles and a source of entertainment? That's what Facebook is, with the added benefit of knowing what my friends are up to (though I constantly wonder, is it necessary for me to know this? It satisfies curiosity, but if I'm either unwilling or too busy or too forgetful to contact these friends individually, do I deserve to know what's going on in their lives?). And these thin reasons for my participating in Facebook and Twitter are probably why I constantly teeter on the brink of backing out altogether. Of course, on the other hand, the two primary sources of traffic for this blog--which is probably my favorite online endeavor--are also these social networking sites. Why do I write a public blog if not to receive traffic? I'd be back to the one-sided confessional again. I have to wonder, how necessary are these services in my life? I always say they aren't, yet I haven't given up on them either. Kudos to Abby, who deleted her Facebook account earlier this year. I am still too weak.

What are your thoughts on Twitter and Facebook? What are they good for? What's the use of staying connected?

Oh, and if you want to follow me on Twitter, you can do so @FarmerLenny. I'll try not to be boring.


  1. I have wanted to delete my Facebook account for years now, but I use it to keep in touch with former employees and especially family back in Indiana. If my mom was not on Facebook, I would delete it and never look back.

    I do not think I do well with change and tend to resist new technology. I think Watson who is currently participating in Jeopardy! is cool but iPads are dumb. It seems any new technology available to the contemporary masses only improves convenience. What truly original technology has been created since the computer? Gadgets now simply and unsuccessfully try to satiate our 'have-it-now' hungers. Today, innovation tends to go where the money is and the money can currently be made by feeding our impatience and vanity.

    I feel like this is what Facebook and Twitter do. What is the motive behind getting such accounts? Self-importance? When I post pictures on Facebook or 'tweet' (I hate that word in this sense.) on Twitter, is it to truly share with others or is it to get others to see how great I am (which I am not). Am I saying, "You will appreciate this" and "We are meeting here" (a text will do) or declaring "Listen to me! I am funny. Look at me! I am important." Is my life really that important that I must let the world know what I am doing all the time? Is my life really that boring that I must read what you are doing all the time? And does it all have to be done right now? Facebook I have problems with but can live with it. Twitter just seems vain.

    While I rant on these social networks, I fall prey to them, as well. I am a hypocrite. I use Facebook and do get enjoyment out or reading some people's status updates...usually the funny ones. I post pictures of the things that I think are cool so all my friends will see what I am doing (and be happy for me/jealous). Even this comment post, I expect it to be read and contemplated.

    So it is not all bad. I am grateful for the ease with which I can contact somebody, that all contact information is in one place. Even so, I still fail awfully at staying in touch. I think this is because I still look at social networking sites (and even texts) as lesser, more informal forms of communication. For day-to-day banter they are fine, but to tell someone life is going or how you are doing, I feel, deserves more. People I genuinely care about receive letters or phone calls.

    However, if I am being honest with myself, I rarely get around to either. Probably because they are not convenient, which is indubitably a factor in the success of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Maybe I am behind the times. Maybe I have something here and am resisting societal pressures. Right or wrong, Facebook and Twitter aid communication (read: not talk), which is good. As one friend put it: better some communication, despite its form, than nothing at all.

  2. I don't care about Twitter. Don't have time for it. I like Facebook to help keep in touch with people. I can only write so many letters (which are usually more than one page, as you know, Jon) each year, and Facebook is way to keep in touch with people I don't normally write to, or in between letters for those I to write to. And I still fall short, way short. (Okay, so e-mail is another way, but in terms of keeping in touch, I'd rather write a letter unless I want to tell something immediate or short, or something.)

    I enjoy reading my friends' blogs, too. I care about what y'all are doing and what's going on in your life. Although I may not always comment, or even get to read everything people post, I still care and I try.

    Also, Facebook and blogs are ways of helping me know how to better pray for friends and family. (Oh, yes, I need to work on this a lot, as well.)

    Phone calls? I don't really like to talk on the phone. If someone calls me, I'll gladly (most of the time) talk with them, but I don't usually make phone calls.

    Caleb left a good example for comments on this one, Jon.