I resisted the Twitter fad for a very long time. My sense was that it was just another time waster, high signal to noise and full of generally irrelevant stuff. I signed up about six weeks ago and found that while all of the above was indeed true I enjoyed it anyway. I’ve been a fairly regular twitterer ever since.
Yesterday Steve Garfield tweeted this link about whether Twitter users are “twits” or “twerps”, complete with analysis of what makes one versus the other and some mild chiding at which way is the More Correct Way to Twitter. It also led me to this other page of Twitter Ten Commandments where the mild chiding is replaced by full on pompous posturing. I suspect the latter link is deliberately provocative as a link whoring mechanism and I have just fallen for it. So be it.
I flatly reject the notion that there is a right and a wrong way to use Twitter, and that you must conform to these weirdly narrow set of rules in order to use it correctly. “Thou shalt not tweet more than 20 times a day.” “Thou shalt not tweet more than 10 times in an hour.” Really? We are expected to keep a clock on ourselves now? Wow, that really adds a level of enjoyment to it. “Hey I have something to say, how many tweets do I have left in my quota? Darn, I have to wait 20 minutes before I can tweet again.” Give me a break.
Even if I haven’t been lost already, he would have lost me here:
6: Thou shalt not forget that the question being asked is “What are you doing?”.
Part of why I resisted joining up for so long is that I seldom do anything very interesting, and I didn’t see what value constantly answering that question could have. When I did join, the very first thing I did was abandon that framing premise as too boring to consider. Instead, for me it is more like “What are you thinking?” which has a much wider range of possibility. My favorite stint on Twitter so far was in the runup to the holidays when I was posting tiny musings on love and hate and affection, getting really interesting responses in return. If my favorite interaction would have been precluded by those commandments, not much chance of me buying in to them.
In the final analysis, not only are they silly and kind of dickish but ultimately they are completely irrelevant. It is a completely self-correcting system. If someone is following you via their cellphone and you get too prolific for them, they unfollow you. If you stop being interesting to someone, they unfollow you. We don’t need all these rules because the system takes care of itself. Maybe for your standard neurotic SNS type user whose main interaction with a system is to collect a headcount via “friends” or “followers” that is anathema to them. Unfollowing makes my count go down, woe is me! Personally, just as I don’t care how many listeners my podcast has, I don’t (or try not to) care how many followers I have. I firmly expect that they will come and go, that I’ll do things to piss some off or lose them, that I’ll pick up other ones. That’s just how the game plays out.
If I were required to follow Phil’s Ten Commandments, I’d just quit the service. If most people I follow did, they would become less interesting. We have a freeform platform for human interaction here. Presupposing exactly what interactions should flow through it and how is not necessary. It causes more harm by making people self-censor their potentially interesting thoughts and is just dumb. Break the commandments! Be Twitter heathens! Phil Casablanca will get pissed off and not follow any of us but we can live with that. It’s like the elephant tied up with a string – it’s not the string that keeps him from running off but his belief in the boundary. Ignoring the boundaries makes you more interesting to me so let it rip!