The world of Twitter

twitter Remember when you tried to explain what email or the web was to your grandparents or maybe even your parents? It wasn’t easy to find the words to describe this new world without using words that would confuse more than teach them.

Back in 1994 I was discussing sports with my brother-in-law. As we finished I asked, “Hey, do you have an email address?” figuring maybe we’d keep in touch as I was planning a move to Seattle. I’ll never forget the look he gave me. It was a look of total confusion mixed with some derision and a little snobbery thrown in for good measure. It was as if I’d crossed the line of manliness transitioning from sports talk to geek speak.

Well, it feels like 1994 all over again when people ask me about Twitter. I’m running into the same looks of confusion and derision. Describing Twitter as “sort of like micro-blogging” carries with it a field full of land mines ready to take off a limb or two. “I don’t blog” or “Blogs are for people who can’t get enough of themselves” are two responses I’ve heard lately.

And that’s the problem. It’s nearly impossible to describe Twitter to someone without making them feel inadequate or making yourself sound self-obsessed. It’s not a product that catches people attention by description only. I’d go so far to say it doesn’t lend itself to demo very well either. Those expecting instant satisfaction will likely go away disappointed.

So going forward I’m not going to attempt to explain Twitter to my friends, coworkers for family. I’ll give them the address and maybe my feed and let them discover it on their own. It really is one of those products that takes some time to discover. For me, it’s worth the time investment. For others, it may not be, and that’s just fine.

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3 thoughts on “The world of Twitter

  1. I run into this problem all the time lately, especially when I was explaining how the heck I met Damon before meeting him in Seattle. “Perpetual Facebook status updates” has worked for people who are on Facebook, but for others I’ve stuck with “It’s a website where you post little notes about what you’re doing now like drinking coffee.” Sadly, neither explanation really gets across the full networking idea of Twitter, but one day at a time.

    Some people I follow seem to get all of their offline friends to signup, but I’ve seen others do that and they end up tweeting to a lot of empty air as their friends don’t tweet/pownce and don’t check the site again. I’d rather meet new people via Twitter and maintain my old relationships as they were (which worked just fine!).


  2. Yeah, so true, I get some strange looks when I just talk about blogging, to say nothing of Twitter!

    I think it was Chris Brogan who wrote that instead of answering the canned Twitter question, “What are you doing now?” it’s better to tweet about “What’s on your mind right now?”

    Depending on which crowd I’m with, I’m either hopelessly retro/vintage or the most wild-eyed, bleeding-edge techie in the world. The key thing is to keep moving around in different crowds so I never forget that I’m confused. 🙂


  3. Ha! Funny. I actually NEVER talk about web stuff to anyone unless I’ve determined they are plugged in to the collective. Otherwise, I don’t tell them I blog, I don’t tell them the use of owning multiple email addresses, I wouldn’t even imagine telling them about social media, etc. Of course, this leads me to feel like I’m a fragged harddrive most of the time, but the suburban mommies around here already think I’m geeky-beyond-reach. Best to lay low and connect with the meat people in a different way. Is this bad? Should I be a social media evangelist?


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