How I Use Twitter

Here I go again. Talking about Twitter. If you don’t care about Twitter, stop reading now.

Here’s the thing… I love Twitter. Like, a lot. I take it very seriously, which is why I mostly use it to make jokes. Sometimes I think this confuses people, so I want to explain how I use Twitter.

Before I get into it, I should point out: this is all subject to change without a moment’s notice. The way I use Twitter (and my blog and email and pens/paper) is always evolving. Priorities are always changing. And I think that’s the way it should be. But this is the way I see it right now.

For better or worse, I prefer to use Twitter as a creative outlet, not a social network. I use Twitter for creativity; I use Facebook for communication.1

Power & Responsibility

Currently, around 775 people follow me on Twitter. That certainly isn’t breaking any records, but it’s still 775 people who have given me their trust by explicitly choosing to read what I have to say. They trust me to write something worth reading, and—presumably—they find some value in the things I write (or they wouldn’t follow me).

It may seem silly to view Twitter followership as a “trust”, but that’s how I see it. And, while I don’t try to conform to others’ expectations, I do try to create an account that I’d want to follow. I try to write things that I would want to read.

Let’s be clear: there’s a lot of crap on Twitter. Between the Justin Bieber teeny-boppers, the hashtag fanatics, and the illiterate masses, the majority of Twitter is essentially unreadable. But there are also a lot of high-quality users who are a joy to follow. Thankfully, we can choose to follow these funny, informative, or otherwise interesting people and avoid the nonsense.

In an effort to be more like these better-quality Twitterers, I usually try to be funny. If I can’t do that, I try to say something interesting or original. I don’t always succeed at this, but—at the very least—I want to write something that won’t be considered a complete waste of your two seconds.

This is one of my main goals in life: I aspire to not waste your time.

Conversations

This gets trickier when dealing with conversations and @ replies.

Many people use Twitter to have conversations2 with other people, @-replying back and forth. That’s a perfectly legitimate way to use Twitter, especially if the conversations are interesting to more than just those two people. But that’s not how I use Twitter.

People wonder why I often use private direct messages (DMs) to communicate with them, rather than posting publicly viewable @ replies. It’s because most conversations don’t meet my self-imposed criteria for being funny, interesting, or original.

My rule for conversations is this: if I’m saying something to an individual that is only intended for that person (and I don’t think it would benefit anyone else to read it), then I send it as a DM (or I don’t send it at all). Responses like “thanks”, “you’re welcome”, “yes”, “no”, or “good joke, dude” don’t need to take up valuable space in other people’s Twitter streams.

Some people reserve DMs for things that definitely shouldn’t be seen by anyone else; the rest can be seen by the public. I use DMs for stuff that wouldn’t be interesting to anyone else; only interesting things should be public.

I once replied to someone’s comment on Twitter by sending a DM that said, “Yes”. The person remarked that it was a “weird DM”. To me, it would have been weirder if I sent it as a public reply. I don’t like the idea of others seeing my personal conversations. I don’t even like talking loudly in restaurants. Ultimately, I’m just trying to respect other people’s time and attention.

I Don’t (Necessarily) Hate You

My goal in explaining all this isn’t to tell anyone how they should use Twitter. I just want to provide an explanation for people who get confused when I don’t make public small talk on Twitter (or when I send “weird” DMs).

Please believe me when I say this: from the bottom of my heart, I do not care how you use Twitter. If I see a benefit to following you on Twitter, I will.3 If I don’t, I won’t. That’s not a threat or a personal affront; it’s just basic economics. I expect other people to treat me the same way. And that’s why I try to provide as much value as I can by being funny, interesting, or original.

So, that’s how I use Twitter. Pretentiously.

  1. This is one of the reasons I like Twitter so much more than Facebook. []
  2. “How are you doing?” “I’m fine. How are you?” “Pretty good. What are you doing tonight?” “Probably nothing. I have diarrhea.” Etc. []
  3. Although, even then, maybe not. I can only process so much information on Twitter. I don’t follow everyone I might enjoy following, simply because I get overwhelmed by so many tweets. []