What Do You Use Your Twitter For?


I was intrigued by a statement quoted by a blogger friend, which says that writing on Twitter or Facebook is like writing on the sand.

We all know what it means, of course. Assuming that the sand is part of the beach, anything you write on it would soon be washed away by the waves. Haa … “the waves” — I like this word! I think it makes a perfect metaphor for the multitude of messages and speed with which they are produced: your tiny bits of messages will soon be drowned by the vast oceans of other messages — made negligible, pointless, insignificant, and meaningless only moments after you made them.

True, I must say.

But that’s what Twitter is all about. The word ‘twitter’ — before the invention of the social medium by that name — means “giving a call consisting of repeated light tremulous sounds,” which normally is associated with birds — thus the symbol of Twitter, the social medium.

We don’t listen to twitter for meanings. I don’t know about birds ‘listening’ to other birds’ twitter, but for us — humans — twitter is ‘only’ an object of enjoyment, though some scientists might find it intriguing enough to try to decipher or study it.

Twitter as a noun, the dictionary says, also means “idle or ignorant talk.” Again, I think this aptly describes the social medium we know of that name. Users (twitterers?) don’t normally talk about serious things in the Twitter. After all, it’s all about idle or ignorant talks.

Only later did we learn of (or realise) its might and use it for serious things, like campaigning or propagating breaking news (or rumours) or even ideas. Thanks to its mass accessibility and its speed of production and propagation, Twitter is no longer just those incomprehensible chirps of a bird perching on a tree’s branch or the idle and ignorant talks of the masses. A resonant tweet can go viral and reach places and people not even the most powerful and daring bird could ever have imagined.

Resonance, however, is a rare thing in the oceans of noises. Out of billions of tweets made everyday, probably only a handful of them ever makes it to the viral status. Resonance has to do with relevance, urgency, and power: how relevant a chirp is, how pressing, and where it comes from. Some chirps may accidentally be relevant to some (those who happen to have the same interests, face the same problem, or feel the same feeling), but not others. Universally relevant messages are abundant. Messages of love and compassion, wisdom, encouragement, etc. are among the daily occurrences that we see on Twitter. The pressing ones, however, only come once in a while when situations and contexts are ripe. Messages of humanitarian disasters and comic or tragic accidents are probably among the most common that fit this. And power of course resides where it is supposed to be: those with money, authority, or fame. Tweets from public figures generally have a fairer chance of getting noticed and re-tweeted over and over, and thus become more widespread.

So is writing on the Twitter like scribbling on the sand? For most people, I think it is. And it doesn’t matter. Most Twitterers, I think, are happy enough to find a medium where they could twitter — talk idly and ignorantly — or share one or two unimportant things with their friends, followers, or whoever is out there who happen to be connected with them. Just as we scribble on the beach’s sands on a blissful day knowing that what we write will not last, twittering — for most of us — is just an idle occupation.

The claim that twittering is just an idle occupation may not suit everyone though. Some people do use the Twitter seriously and for more or less serious purposes, like communicating and sharing ideas with their followers. Some, like me, tend to use it like a note book — a piece of space where they jot down ideas that suddenly come to mind so that they can be retrieved and developed some day into a full-fledged piece of writing. In such a case, writing on the Twitter is not at all like writing on the sands. How about you?

Thank you for reading. I'd love to hear from you.

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