I first discovered Twitter a couple of years ago. I completely didn’t “get” it back then, mostly because I couldn’t see how there could be any other answer to the question, “What are you doing?” than “I’m sitting at my computer typing this, what else could I be doing?”
Ten Things Twitter Has Taught Me About Life
Anyway, I opened an account, updated it with the highly original “Feeling like a twit”, and sat back and waited. Nothing happened.
Then, earlier this year, I discovered Twitter again, intrigued anew after seeing that famous tweet and Twitpic of the plane that fell into the Hudson.
I logged in, tentatively tweeted something about people who swim at gym, and then I sat back and waited. Something happened.
Today, to those people who say “get a life” to people who tweet too much, I say, “Actually, there are many things Twitter can teach us about life.” Such as, just in case they call my bluff, the following.
1. Even With All the Robots Out There, People Still Need People
. That’s why people ask for advice and help on Twitter, when it would often be easier just to Google or Bing. There’s something about advice and help from a Real Person that just makes it seem more, well, real. We are warm-blooded creatures, despite our reliance on machines, and sometimes we instinctively need a little reassurance.
2. Sometimes, When We Set Boundaries for Ourselves, We Give Ourselves Greater Freedom to Explore
. Read a Haiku, watch a short film, listen to a song by Wire, and you will see, hear, and feel what this means. A tweet is just a tweet, of course, but the process of tweeting forces us to think in smaller and smaller circles, paradoxically opening up new worlds of possibility at the same time.
3. Everybody Needs to Belong
. To a tribe, to a community, to a cult, to a country club, to an association, to a society, to a movement, to a group, to a local chapter of Introverts Anonymous. The big difference on Twitter is that you don’t just need to belong, you need to be brief.
4. Most People Are Nice By Nature
. Twitter is a micro-universe where conviviality and cordiality are the conversational norm, making it an exception in the bigger universe of the Internet. But it’s a truth that holds about people in the Real Universe too. Most of them will go out of their way to be nice to you, or will at least take their cue from you being nice to them. As for the rest, well, there’s always Block or Unfollow.
5. You Have to “Get It” to Get It
. Lots of people don’t “get” Twitter when they first come across it. Some shrug their shoulders and abandon the exercise. Others shake their heads and look down from a great height on those who are still chirpily Tweeting away. But those who persevere, those who “get into it”, as in any area of life, will often find that there is something to the whole business after all.
6. The Small Stuff is the Big Stuff
. Twitter is all about what people had for breakfast, in the same way that newspapers are all about what Your Stars Foretell. But even so, the minutiae of our lives are important to us, and for good reason. They remind us that we all have little things in common, and that we all measure our lives by the same minutes that tick by. So what did YOU have for breakfast this morning?
7. The Stream Flows On Within You and Without You
. If you stop tweeting, the stream of tweets doesn’t stop. Except for that day that Twitter went down, of course. Man, talk about suddenly being made aware of your own mortality. But then it started flowing again, and everything was okay.
8. The Value You Add is the Value You Earn
. You’ll get more out of Twitter if you put more into Twitter, as long as it’s not more than 140 characters at a time. This also applies to other areas of life, such as business, personal relationships, and the stock market. Okay, not the stock market.
9. You Are What You’re Doing
. Twitter’s default question is one of the great existential challenges of our time, and it works no matter where you place the emphasis. What ARE you doing? What are YOU doing? What are you DOING? WHAT are you doing? Think about it, answer, and then go forth and do.
10. Analogies For Life Are No Substitute For Life Itself
. Sometimes, you need to stop tweeting, and go out and spend some time with 140 characters or less in the real world. But take your mobile along, just in case any of them has anything interesting to say.
*Flickr pic by Emdot, www.flickr.com/photos/emdot