Following the bluebird
by Keris Lahiff
There’s been a snowball of Twitter-related media coverage since it graced our monitors. It played its role in the recent riots in Egypt, has humiliated a major Australian bank with an accidental Tweet and even allowed public access into the sordid love life of our own Shane Warne.
But for all its notoriety, most people know of the concept, but haven’t yet dived into its shallow pool. Now jump into the rabbit hole with me as we explore the cultural phenomenon of Twitter.
“We came across the word ‘twitter’, and it was just perfect. The definition was ‘a short burst of inconsequential information’, and ‘chirps from birds’. And that’s exactly what the product was,” Jack Dorsey, one of the site’s co-founders, told The LA Times of the site’s inception.
Inconsequential it may be, but people worldwide have lapped up the banal musings posted on Twitter. Launched in July 2006, the site has 175 million registered users, with an average 95 million posts written per day. And by the end of America’s Super Bowl this year, Twitter reported a groundbreaking 4000 tweets per second. It’s user enthusiasm like this that has Google and Facebook interested in buying the site, with rumours of more than $8 billion being offered.
Day one – A Twitter noob
I’d never thought of getting in on the Twitter action. I was a little apprehensive when faced with the above figures – the club was full. But, in the vein of research, I decided to take the knock on the door, push past the bouncer and put Twitter to the test.
Dare I become one of the egotistical, self-obsessed, summary-thinking masses? Dignifying my life a-la Facebook-style was confronting enough, each of my friends listed and tallying my popularity and my worth only as good as the number of wall posts. Do I really want to summarise my life in pixels?
I’m asked for my name and email. Ok, not so probing yet. Now for my interests. Come on buddy. Let’s keep it professional. Then who I would like to follow. How dare you! Implying I’m some kind of stalker. Oh wait, it seems this is part of Twitter’s lingo.
Note to self – Twitter vocabulary is puzzling. Am I tweeting or twittering? And, am I a twitterer? The twitterati? A twit?
Noun and verb confusion aside, I’ve successfully set up my profile. What do I do now? Do I tweet? Do I follow? I’m tittered. Will let you know.
Twitter lets me know I can find peeps to follow through my Hotmail account. What an inbred place the internet is – all these sites seem to feed off each other.
It seems everyone is on Twitter. Even Kevin Rudd has his own profile. I suddenly feel very old and out of touch.
Fifteen minutes later and two followers on
Just fifteen minutes in and one Tweet later and I have two followers already. And, I’m following 50 people. This thing is kind of addictive. I tweet about my two followers – I hope they appreciate this.
I note that I have to be careful of what I post. In early 2010, for example, a Vodafone employee wrote a homophobic, and rather obscene, post while accidentally logged in under the corporate profile. Immediately suspended, I doubt their career has been sunshine and roses since then.
One week in …
I now have a grand total of 15 followers. I don’t know who these people are, nor how they came to follow me, but I feel pressure to entertain them. I quickly write a tweet about moustaches’ waning popularity in recent times. I hope this satiates their thirst. I fear losing one of them. Fourteen followers just doesn’t have the same ring and my ego will be bruised.
I fear I have become obsessed, now clicking to follow many twitterers. Hmm. I’ve even subscribed to an Ukranian news site, the purposes of which I’m not sure what I’ll use for but no doubt, like MacGyver, it will come in handy in a pickle.
Two weeks in …
I need a fix of the bluebird. I’ve even started to dream in 140 characters or less.
I’ve discovered a trend where people tweet six-word novels with the hashtag #sixwordnovels. Some of the best include “Sparkly vampire stalks whiney teen girl”, “Shire. Frodo. Ring. Battle. Mordor. Fire.” And “Voldemort kills Harry’s parents. They’re avenged.” I feel productive as I cross those books off my list.
I’ve also discovered I can access my Twitter account from my phone. This is quite a development for me but not a new one. According to Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, 40 per cent of posts are now submitted via mobile devices. This, he says, is the future of the company.
Three weeks in…
My number of followers has stagnated, as have my tweets. Slowly weaned off the site, I now only occasionally check it for some midday LOLs.
Twitter’s value has been realised – in a world where we need bits and bytes of information now (no, NOW), Twitter could be a lifesaver. Or the founders have just found another way for us to waste time on the internet.
Breaking news – Kevin Rudd (yes, THAT Kevin Rudd aka K.Rudd) just started following me. And just like that, I’m back in!
Published on: Tuesday, February 22, 2011