Saturday, 19 February 2011

Twitter: Year Two


Today is my second Twitterversary.  Two years of tweeting nearly everyday, over 70,000 tweets in total from the two accounts.  (Poor @Gray333 remains pretty much dormant unless we're on a Tweetathon but that's where it all started two years ago today and there's over 4000 tweets from that account.)

There are days when I feel more @diaryofaledger than I do Gray.  If you're on Twitter and tweet as much as I do you'll get that.  It is easy to still get lost in there, days when it feels like it's a place rather than a website where real, genuine, friendships are made.  Have those moments lessened in year two?  Hmmm.

There are times when I would say yes and times when I'd say no.  And over the last year, certainly more than year one, I'll be honest and say I've doubted it's worth at times, questioned how people use it and wondered why I bother.  There have been times when I've felt on the periphery of things, like tweeting someone was butting in or that I really didn't have much to offer anyway.  It's been the year where the retweet has become king and the only way that you really gain any followers and, let's be honest about this, the numbers are a big part of Twitter.  There are still times when I miss those first few months on Twitter when there were only around thirty of us (or so it seemed) and we all tweeted Stephen Fry everyday in the hope of a reply.  That feels like a long time ago now.

It has changed, but, and this is why I stay, not all of it is for the worst.  Realising that everyone saw it differently, that everyone's experience was a unique one, dominated entirely by who they chose to follow was a bit of a moment.  It's obvious really but when I actually sat and thought about it I became less frustrated by what I saw and more open to different interpretations of what it's for.  Sure I still get annoyed when someone attempts to define it or come up with a set of rules for everyone because I feel that's bollocks.  The best thing about Twitter is the freedom of expression and the ability to share that with anyone.  Telling people how to do that is wrong because it starts putting rules around Twitter when the reason we all loved it in the first place was that there weren't any.  But getting that we all have a different Twitter made me a lot more comfortable in my own skin.  (Well my Twitter skin anyway.)

Honestly, if someone is upsetting or offending you, I'd recommend unfollowing them rather than moaning about a timeline that is entirely yours to shape.  If you really don't want to hear from someone, block them.

I do still love it for many many reasons.  There are friends on Twitter who have moved from digital mates to real life rocks this year.  There are others who I sit and wish I could tweet like, who's brains work so amazingly that they have become highlights of my timeline, spinning things in 140 that I could only dream of coming up with.  I love the wry observations, the way a Tweet from someone normal can grow and escalate beyond anything we'd have imagined two years ago.  It's incredible how much that has changed, how embedded in popular culture we, essentially, have become.

We're the instant TV reviewers.  The place where the news breaks as it happens. The place where watching X-Factor became cool simply because our timelines became full of genuine comic genius.  We get referenced all the time as the old media catches up with us.

It does feel less Twittervillage.  I guess for some it's still very much like that, but I've seen others struggle as it's evolved (just as I did) either leave or cease to tweet.  There are people that I genuinely miss seeing regularly in my timeline.  It's sprawling, less conversational, more about getting your punchline in and getting a favourite or that precious and much desired retweet.  It is incredibly easy to get frustrated by that.  I did for a while.  But when it comes to something like Tweetathon where I'm so reliant on that for it to work I can hardly criticise others for chasing the buzz of validation.  Personally I like people best who mix it up.  Those that can be brilliantly funny but also engaging, either on the timeline or via direct message.  I also love that picking up a phone and calling me has become the norm.  It's fun to have a gossip about you all.  *winky face*

I said earlier this year that I came close to leaving and I did.  Or rather I came close to taking a month out and then reassessing whether I quit for good.  There's a blog post still sat in my drafts that was ready to tell you that and explain why.  To say I'm glad that it didn't happen is an understatement but there were lessons learned.  I am very open on Twitter.  I am very open in real life.  But there will be no more relationships played out on the public timeline, it's just not worth losing Twitter over and I know that stuff was as uncomfortable for some of my followers as it was for me.

And there will be those of you that read that and say I place to much value on Twitter, that having something play such a big part in every single day can not be healthy.  But the joy of Twitter for me is that you lot are real (for the most part) and having to leave so many people that I've invested two years in would have been too much of a wrench.

Thank you for another year of making me laugh.  Thank you for another year of making me envious of your talents and for tolerating me tweeting from the bus every morning.  Thank you for your continued support for Tweetathon and for all the other times when I've needed a shoulder.  

Twitter: still the best thing on the internet by a million fucking miles.