Apparently, today (21st March 2014) is Twitter’s 8th birthday. I don’t know if this is the reason, but there have been several entries in my timeline recalling people’s first tweets.
As it happens, today is also the 2nd anniversary of me setting up a Twitter account. However, my first tweet is dated 10th August 2012, and there’s a note in my diary saying that I have “re-activated” my account. I don’t remember what I used it for between March and August, except possibly to check on up-to-the-minute bus information, as our local company uses Twitter quite well for this.
I started again when our local Christian bookshop went on line (@CTBookshop), and mainly because my wife works there and I wanted to get used to Twitter in case they needed any help. So my first tweet was a response to the bookshop’s first tweet, and in it I noted that I needed to find out “how Twitter works”. (Actually there was a typo: I really put “findk out”.)
At the time, I meant this in a technical sense: how you send tweets, how to reply, how to follow / unfollow / block, how to include links, pictures, etc. While I wouldn’t say I am an expert, I quickly found out enough about this to be of practical use.
In my first year, I tweeted only every few days or so, and even then mainly to keep track of where I was in my timeline, but since last August / September my usage has shot up. This is because I’ve discovered there’s another sense in which we can think of “how Twitter works”.
My initial understanding of Twitter was that it was about “broadcasting”: a user tweets something that they find interesting, and othe people who choose to follow will read it.
But I now realise that Twitter is much more about conversation, and I would guess these days that’s true for most people. The vast majority of my tweets are replies to other people, which explains why my usage has shot up.
And it can be about conversation with total strangers. Very few of those I follow on Twitter are people that I have actually met; and given my state of health I may never meet most of them in person. Yet there are quite a few people who I now regularly ‘converse’ with, and even some I would call friends.
Being an introvert, it wasn’t easy for me, and in the beginning I made several false starts; even now there are some conversations in this very public medium that I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to join, or times where I worry that my comments are displeasing.
But in many cases where I have dipped my toe in the conversational world of Twitter, I have been welcomed. In particular, the mutual support that exists for #spoonies is fantastic, and my life would be worse off without it.
Happy Birthday, Twitter!