Thinking inside the box

Posted on 20/02/09 | in ideas

Vigornian has made some good comments about the whole social media/malarkey. I feel the urge to explain why I like Twitter so much.

The biggest reason for me is a slightly odd one: I’m obsessed with the idea of ‘formal constraints’ being a spur to creativity, hence an interest in crosswords, Oulipo, J-P’s “show me the way to go home” variations, etc etc. Having to write in 140 characters or less for me is a hugely liberating idea. I don’t use Twitter to keep up with friends per se – that’s what LiveJournal and Facebook are for (among other things) – though of course it’s great to see friends there, some of whom don’t use those other sites much or at all anyway. If you like, I use it to show off to strangers.

I have reasons for that, partly: I like creating oddball web quizzes and so on, and I’ve got plans for several Twitter apps that I hope could go viral. It’s a bit depressing to put it in such terms, but much of this is about marketing – I’m not interested in the whole “drive business with Twitter” tedium that’s everywhere, but I suppose I’m ego-brand building, which might lead to interesting work (I’m self-employed, remember?), but better still just leads to meeting interesting people. So, yeah, it’s all about me – but really that’s all about encountering all the myriad creative, interesting people out there I’ve never met before. I can gain an audience for my whimsies, and be the audience for others’.

Facebook is fantastic as a shared repository for friends’ experiences (tomorrow, I’m meeting a friend I haven’t seen for 15 years – thanks to Facebook); LiveJournal is best for discursive reflection and comment – but neither helps you meet new people much. I love LiveJournal because it’s all about writing, and that’s part of what I do in life; Facebook doesn’t offer much creative expression – other than the status update, which I loved until I found Twitter – so leaves me colder.

I also love the elegant simplicity of the Twitter concept. The way you connect to others through @ and to subjects through # is very simple, but has a lot of power (I’m not saying it’s without faults, mind).

Editor says he thinks Facebook would kill Twitter by allowing public updates. maybe he’s right, maybe he’s not – but I personally prefer the sites (as Cyclotronic says) to keep their separate strengths. Trying to be all things to all people might just end up being disappointing for everyone.

I like Twitter’s search facility: I find interesting tweets and people all the time through it, all well as skimming the thoughts of a zillion people. It’s like being telepathic. Many of those are dull as ditchwater, but with just 140 characters, gems shine out. Others on the web have written better than I can on how this “live search” concept is a big thing. It’s not Facebook that should swallow Twitter – it’s Google.

I couldn’t quite get all this into 140 characters.

Small edit: I should also have mentioned how useful Twitter is for news feeds, whether national or specific (eg BBC technology) – if headline writers are any good, you can get the gist, and lately (=baby) I’ve sadly little time to read full stories. Though I still prefer RSS feeds somewhat, as the timeline gets so cluttered.

3 Comments on “Thinking inside the box”

  1. hatmandu Says:

    Note to self: haven’t imported comments for this post yet.

  2. leigh m Says:

    I am also, as a lit geek, intrigued and challenged by the 140 character limit…although occasionally I feel as though Twitter has become Faintly Macabre, the Which from ‘The Phantom Tollbooth,” who in her management of word usage in Dictionopolis starts with at “Brevity is the soul of wit” and winds up at “Silence is golden” (and, eventually, in the dungeon for it).

  3. hatmandu Says:

    I know what you mean – especially this week! 🙂

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