Is Anybody Listening? A lament (and relent) about Twitter

I don’t get Twitter.

Or in Twitter parlance: #IDon’tGetIt.

It is, at face value, actually quite simple: an online venue in which one expresses him-/herself in 140 characters, follows the expressions of others, and categorizes his/her own expressions with hashtags for ease of allowing others to follow him/her.

Indeed, Twitter’s liberal use of symbology – #, @, RT, MT, and links beginning with or or foreshortened forms of other familiar websites (e.g. amzn,, wp) – gives it less the air of a web service and more that of a futuristic language.

And who doesn’t think it’s cool to be bi-/tri-/multilingual?

I get all that.

I also get that Twitter’s a great way to keep up with news, which is the primary reason I joined up in the first place.


What I don’t understand is how some people manage to actually get said news.

Because there is just so much of it.

“I will follow him…”

In essence, the thing I really don’t get about Twitter is how someone can legitimately “follow” hundreds, if not thousands, or tens of thousands of people.

I guess the same could be asked of people who follow a large number of blogs.

Currently, I’m following 31 blogs.  Of those 31, five have ceased posting indefinitely, seven post less than once a week, only two post daily, and one of the 31 is my own.

I read every word of every blog I’m subscribed to, and as a result am very choosy about which blogs I follow, as my time is a finite resource.

Currently on Twitter, I’m following 61 people.  Already, I’m not reading every tweet in my Twitter stream, even though they’re only 140 characters each.  Because they don’t land in my inbox and wait patiently for me to find a spare moment.  Rather, they just float on by, unheeded.  Like a … stream.

Given my own usage habits, I’m convinced that few of my followers (40 at present, and all following far more people than I am) are reading all of me.  Assuming any of them are.  Which makes being on Twitter feel like I’m talking to an imaginary friend.

If a message is tweeted and no sees it, does the follower really exist?  For that matter, does the Tweeter?

This, of course, makes me ask myself why bother tweeting at all. Not to mention the ongoing dilemma of what to tweet.  One of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2013 is to be more active on Twitter.  I made this resolution for two reasons: One, as I mentioned above, was to get more news with less effort.

And two, to have a mind for my web presence and “writer’s platform”.  Like most other aspiring novelists, I’ve read that having a following before you have even submitted your work can improve your chances of being published.  Hell – I’ve even read it on Twitter.

As in most things I initially dislike, the solution thus lies in thinking about Twitter in a new way.

By tweeting things that are interesting to me, and using my timeline as a repository for links and comments I want to save, my Twitter account can serve as a compliment to my blog (a micro-blog, if you will), which, incidentally, also had no readers when I first started it.

If I’m lucky, as has been the case with my blog, what’s interesting to me will be of interest to others as well.  And if I tweet it, they – the followers – will come.


Question: All you tweeters out there, what are some other Twips (twitter tips) I should follow?

11 thoughts on “Is Anybody Listening? A lament (and relent) about Twitter

  1. I agree with you about Twitter. I don’t get it at all. I was encouraged to start ‘Tweeting’ because I am in the process of publishing my first book. I see the value of social media sites such as Facebook and having a website, and of course having and maintaining a blog, but I have yet to master Twitter. And what does one tweet about?

    Thanks for your thoughts on this. I enjoyed and shared in your bewilderment and frustration with this particular application.


    • Thanks, Nancy. I think figuring out what to tweet is the hardest part. When I first started, I had no idea. But as I mentioned in my post, I’ve since just started tweeting things that are interesting to me (the same process I applied what I started blogging), and lo and behold, I’ve obtained a few followers. It seems to me, it works best when you just be yourself instead of trying to be hip and trend-worthy.

      I actually think you’d do really well using Twitter as a compliment to your blog, as you blog about a number of different subjects that could pull in Twitter followers from a number of different camps.


  2. I’m on Twitter for the same reason you are – the supposed obligation we writers owe our hypothetical future agents and publishers. Frankly, I’d rather spend my time writing, and being savvy with social media has nothing to do with writing skill. It’s all a stupid distraction as far as I’m concerned, yet I play along like a fool. Of course, if most Tweeters could resist tweeting 40 or 60 times a day, the tool might be a little more useful.

    Everything is tweetworthy now. If you buy a dishtowel on Amazon, they have a prewritten tweet for you to send to your followers. If you “like” a video by Panic! at the Disco on YouTube, they want you to tweet that too.

    Janna, did you know I liked a song by Barbara Mason I saw on YouTube the other day? If only you followed me on Twitter and if only I’d bothered to authorized the pre-written tweet, the world would surely be a better place today. Imagine the amazing sharing and learning experience we could have had!

    Can you tell this subject brings out my snarky side?


    • “The supposed obligation” – I love it, and not entirely untrue. I do like Twitter more now than when I first started, but I also still have moments of asking myself, “Who am I even talking to? And why would anyone care?”

      I’m definitely with you about the oversharers on Twitter. I had oatmeal for breakfast as well, yet managed to restrain myself from sharing that fact with 500 million people. I think Twitter should have a limit on the number of times you can Tweet per day unless you’re an important person with important things to say that people actually want to know about. And yes, those pre-written Tweets have got to go!


    • Yes, the definition of “friend” has definitely changed in the internet age. I’m going to stick with Twitter for at least the rest of the year to satisfy my streak of successful New Year’s resolutions, but my focus will be more so on connecting with people from whom I can learn useful things and getting news, not amassing scores of followers.


  3. I got on twitter because I thought it would be a fast way to organize things with friends & keep in touch. I quickly discovered that very few of my friends had twitter accounts, so it wasn’t useful for that. However, companies & politicians monitor twitter so I’ve started using it to voice my opnion. I don’t care if they actually listen (but I hope they do) – sometimes I just need a place to vent where someone with the power to do something MIGHT notice. To be effective at that, you have to do a little research before you tweet – look up the company/persons twitter name (it’s not always obvious) and appropriate hash tags.

    I “follow” a lot of people, but found that I was spending all day reading twitter news. I was well informed, but wasn’t getting anything done! So, I only log into my account when I have time. However, since I have a cellphone, I have set up my account so tweets from close friends and select other people get sent to my phone as a text msg. I’m very selective on whose tweets go to my phone. For a while, had the tweets from a few politicians and a famous Canadian author sent to my phone because I really wanted to know what they had to say, but was quickly overwhelmed as they have a lot to say! (one politician comments on almost every question and response during parliament’s Question Period). I had to disable the push notifications for their tweets and go back to reading online when I have time. So, there are ways to set up your account so you are notified immediately when someone you really want to hear from tweets. Now that I know you’re on twitter, I’m going to add you to that list!


    • Rhonda, I wish more people used Twitter like you – for the betterment of government and societal knowledge. That would be so much more interesting than some people Tweeting how delicious their oatmeal was at breakfast.

      That’s a good tip about the push notifications for the phone. I’ll look into that once I get around to obtaining a slightly smarter smartphone. I’m also starting to create lists on my Twitter homepage so I can find the info I’m looking for faster.

      Overall, though, it is just too much information, and I don’t really think there’s a happy medium to be found: you’re either going to miss most of the Tweets like me, or be well-informed but get nothing done like you were.

      All that being said, I had no idea you were on Twitter. I’m going to look you up now. 🙂


      • It doesn’t have to be a smart phone! Any phone that accepts text messages will work.

        Today you got a taste of what I use Twitter for. A newspaper article quoted a speech from one of Ontario’s political leaders that had a ton of misinformation. Either the politician was completely ignorant of the law or was lying outright (politician … take your pick). Since the newspaper didn’t allow you to post comments, I went to Twitter. Don’t know if it will make a difference, but made me feel better.


  4. I also don’t get Twitter, Janna. I’m on it and probably check it every two days so I miss 99% of what is being said by the people I follow! For some reason I just ‘have it’ because I thought it would be interesting – but all it’s taught me is total confusion! 😉


    • I’m going to stick it out with Twitter for the rest of the year, Dianne, so as not to break my streak of successful New Year’s Resolutions, but hopefully I’ll pick up some helpful tips along the way that I can share with everyone. 🙂


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