Twitter Through a Humorist's Eyes

Twitter Through a Humorist's Eyes

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

Are you on Twitter? Are you a power tweeter, with severe thumb cramps, because you're constantly tweeting to your friends? Or do you think it's the little yellow bird Sylvester the cat kept trying to eat?

I use Twitter every day as part of my day job, and I'm constantly trying to convince people to try it.

"It's so easy," I tell them. "It's like sending a text message, but it's visible to other people."

This doesn't help much, because the most common response is, "why would people care about what I have to say?"

They don't. You're not very interesting, and actually bring down the happiness level in a room whenever you walk in. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm dresses all in black and listens to The Cure whenever you show up.

Okay, I don't really say that. I don't even think it, especially about you. You're awesome. I'm surprised complete strangers don't just follow you around just in the hopes that you might say something cool.

So let me tell you about Twitter, and you can decide whether you want to be a part of it.

Twitter is a messaging service that lets you send out messages — tweets — with other people — tweeple (no, seriously.) — in your network. These people are called followers, which is a rather unfortunate term on Twitter's part, because it sounds rather stalkerish.

"I'm following you," someone will say, without a hint of creepiness, but with the theme music to "The Omen" playing in the background. "Are you following me?"

"Oh yeah," says the other person, also not creepy. "I've been following you for months."

This is a rather dark, sinister side of Twitter, compared to the happy, optimistic terminology Facebook has chosen, with "friend."

"Aww, you're my friend. She's my friend too. Hey, I want to be friends with that guy!" And everyone comes together for a group hug, and REM's "Shiny Happy People" blasts out of unseen speakers.

But the poor choice of words is Twitter's only potential problem. Otherwise, Twitter is a fun social networking tool.

With Twitter, you answer the question, "What's happening?" in 140 characters, including spaces and punctuation. You fill people in on parts of your life, sharing only what you want to share, and keeping everything else private.

You'd be surprised at what people can squeeze into 140 characters. In fact, every sentence in this column is 140 characters or less.

"But why would people care what I have to say?" many people say, not realizing they asked that in the fourth paragraph. "Why are people interested in the details of my life."

It's not tweeting what you had for lunch, that you're walking the dog, or my favorite (it's not, I hate it), that you went to the bathroom.

(Special note to people who use this as an example as to why they don't use Twitter: it's not profound. It wasn't the first 5,000 times I heard it. And you're not going to put a special twist on it that makes me realize I've been a fool for the last three years. People do not tweet their bathroom habits. We don't talk about it in public, so we certainly don't tweet it.)

Most of the people I talk to about Twitter are from Indiana. We're rather humble people here in the Hoosier state. But we don't make a big deal out of our humbleness, not like those hoity-toity blowhards from Minnesota.

We're the kind of people who worry that saying we're going out for lunch sounds like we're bragging about how much money we make. So Twitter makes us feel uncomfortable, because we don't want to crow about our own accomplishments.

Don't worry, it's not bragging. Twitter is for asking questions, like "I'm thinking about going to a movie. Any recommendations?" You can share an article you've read: "Just finished reading '9 Ways To Tell If You Have Too Many Cats.' You can read it here..." You can even tweet with other people halfway across the country about the game or TV show you're watching.

Twitter is about ideas and conversation. It helps you find new people you may never meet otherwise. I've talked with some great writers, musicians, and artists. I've met people in my industry and community, promoted my writing, and even gotten some business opportunities, all thanks to Twitter.

So don't look down on Twitter as some passing fad or stupid chat program. It's so much more than that. There are some interesting things happening on Twitter that you really don't want to miss.

Besides, everyone has been talking about you behind your back on it.

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