Finally, I am a twitter nut! Ordinarily I am the first one in line for the latest and the greatest, but twitter has simply eluded my comprehension. Twitter has made me feel like a visitor to a foreign land where certain delicacies the natives savor just seem unapproachable to me. As a print native immigrating to digital-land, the notion of hundreds of 140 character messages streaming past my screen at lightening speed was just more than I could bear.
Then the 2012 political season began to happen, and I began to suspect that by not savoring the wonders of twitter I was missing out on something really great! So I logged in to twitter (yes, I have had an account for several years!) and started searching for a few of the political gurus that I most admire – starting of course with Rachel Maddow. Very quickly I found tweeters who not only gave good political tweets, but several that mixed in large doses of humor – something that makes this political season a bit more bearable!
The next evolution was turning on notifications on my iPhone for the tweeters that seemed the most interesting. I quickly discovered which ones were sending tweets every time they ate at a good restaurant (which I quickly dropped), and those who tweeted substantive information or really fun stuff. The result — I am totally hooked! And I have barely become enculturated. I am still playing around with notifications, for example, but now I learn about almost anything important happening in the political jungle before it hits the airwaves, and get leads to any number of very interesting back-stories as well.
Of course one might reasonably ask the fundamental “why” question about all of this! For me the answer to “why” is not that I get advance reports of stuff happening (although that is very interesting), nor is it that I get several really funny quips that make me laugh every day (although that is actually a great health benefit!!). The main reason that getting into twitter is important to me is that I have shifted into a realm of experience that is the future. Folks can decry all the things that will be lost from the print-only ages past, but that is part of the experience of social and cultural evolution … some things that might be, or have been valuable and important fall away, while other things emerge.
Here is my take on what we gain in this future that bears a “twitter” imprint … those 140 characters are windows to a vast world of information, knowledge and insight. But the cultural challenges for us print natives is learning how to tune in to quickly shifting mini-messages, sift through the huge universe of twitter to find what is interesting, meaningful and important, and to realize (this is the hard part!) that we do not need to read everything. In twitter land, if it appears on the screen once, and it is important, we need to learn to trust that it will appear again and we can wait to see it the second, third, even fourth time. Then we need to learn how to judge which of the tiny URLs that appear in tweets to follow, and set up a system for following the depth later when we have time to dwell with what is there.
But there is one “danger” that is new to this digital universe — it is all too easy to create a bubble. The “bubbles” also exist in all forms of media – TV viewers, for example, have 3 different bubbles to choose from – the liberal progressive bubble, the conservative bubble, and the pablum bubble (media outlets that superficially report events). I admit proudly that my bubble is clearly defined in the liberal progressive realm. And what most excited me is that I found several feminist tweeters (including Planned Parenthood, Feminist Press, Ms Magazine), a fact that reassures me that women are indeed coming into the digital realm slowly, but surely.
So knowing the limitations of my own bubble, my challenge is to remain sensitive and open to information channels of all sorts that point in the direction of a wider understanding of the world beyond that which suits my particular fancy. This is where the humor plays a very important role! In fact, perhaps two of the most important news sources available today are Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” (of which Lizz Winstead is an important part) and Steven Colbert’s “Colbert Report.”
So I would love to hear from others about twitter!! Share your comments here!