Twitter has many many uses. It’s evolved out of a simple response to the question “What are you doing?” to encompass a whole plethora of responses, and answers captured in 140 characters.
From people sharing what they’ve eaten for breakfast, to ideas being debated, insights being shared and even breaking news being reported live, twitter has become almost a thought stream, that feeds you the thoughts, actions, ideas, and events that are happening in the lives of everyone that you’re actively following on twitter.
Some people, however, think it’s important to respect the attention, and time of everyone and anyone that might be listening, and selectively only share meaningful, insightful carefully considered thoughts, ideas, or links of interest, avoiding sharing the more banal day to day stuff from their everyday lives.
Others get really self conscious about sharing such personal details, and wonder why anyone could possibly want to know what they just ate, or that they’re meeting someone over coffee.
Well, I’d like to explain why all that banal, everyday, “regular” stuff is not just useful, but actually really important. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s the stuff that holds the fabric of our society together.
Think about it for a second.
How interesting do you find people that just “talk” about the same topic, all the time?? Say a friend who’s an avid enthusiast of something, and just won’t stop talking about it, over and over and over again. Sooner or later, unless you happen to share that same enthusiasm, you’re going to get bored, and tired of listening to them. You’re going to want them to change topic, or run away from them, instead of having to listen to that same conversation, or those same thoughts and ideas, over and over and over again.
Ironically, it’s the things we have in common with people, that actually create connections between us. Think for a moment of all the people in your life. Your family, your friends, the people you studied with, the people you work with. To some extent or another, you all have some basic things in common. It could be you both have the same employer, that you both grew up in the same area, that you both have the same parents, or grandparents. But these common threads are all that we have to allow us to be able to engage in any real way. The moment someone talks about something that you just simply can’t relate to, or connect with, you disengage. You get bored. You switch off.
Well, believe it or not, we spend a significant amount of our daily lives doing “boring”, mundane, everyday things. We eat, we sleep, we write, we check emails, we go to the gym.. The list goes on and on..
But what get’s interesting is when we see something that we might be able to connect with.. Twitter gives us an opportunity to connect with the “normal” everyday part of each other’s lives. The stuff that ordinarily you could only really know if you were there, living with the other person.. And sometimes people connect with things you would never think were relevant, or of any real importance.
I’m reminded of my dear friend Ryan, Founder of Picnet, who was telling me about how the most response he gets from his status updates on Facebook, is when he talks about Burritos. It seems people connected with him frequently, when he would update his status, regarding the Burrito’s he’d be having, and if there’s one thing about Ryan, once you get to know him, you’ll understand just how much he loves his Burritos ;)
But joking at the triviality of it aside, for a moment, it’s actually really insightful, and eye opening to see that pre-twitter, even on Facebook, people were sometimes connecting more on the “regular” stuff, rather than the necessarily deep, meaningful, or profound stuff. Why? Because there was a common interest. It was an opportunity to engage that didn’t require any real significant commitment, or engagement from the other parties. In that regard, it may have been a fairly shallow, and superficial connection, but it’s this very banter, and joking that helps us get to know each other a little better.
It’s almost like an ambient awareness we start to build up of the people in our community, who we connect and engage with. People like @stephenfry might be unable to keep up with the torrential stream of people’s updates, as the thousands of people he follows share their lives. Yet even he attracts and draws such a following, because he’s more “human”, more “normal” more “regular” and shares his life so publicly. If you look at what makes a useful, or interesting twitterer, it tends to be someone who doesn’t take themselves too seriously. Someone who shares of their life, as well as their work, and their thoughts and ideas.
Consider for a moment, when you first greet someone. Even though there’s little or no real conversation, it’s almost always the norm to exchange some semblance of greetings, or appropriate platitudes, to start some conversation off. Then generally, conversation will fumble along, until a common point of interest is touched upon.
By having this “social ambience” through twitter, it means that we know that much more about each other, and whilst in the past, we might have had these sort of banal, mundane conversations over the water cooler, or in the kitchen, we can now start to have them virtually. The side benefit being we never know what little tidbits might be useful, or not, but we have all those little things to potentially connect with, and relate with the other person on. Who knows, perhaps we share the same taste in spread on toast, perhaps we enjoy the same flavour burritos? Perhaps we enjoy watching similar tv shows, or hanging out in similar coffee houses.
The fact is, the mundane, and everyday tweets, make life more “normal” for everyone. It gives us a chance to connect as “humans”, outside of our work, and “perfect” facades that we might put on. It’s the ability to see behind the polished exterior, and see each other as we really are. To connect with one another, on a human level.
Of course, if you’re only interest in using Twitter, is to “get ahead” in your professional life, or to serve your customers, or find potential clients, you may find yourself connecting more easily with someone you share a similar interest in wines with, than you would necessarily with someone who might need, or be able to benefit from your services.
At the end of the day, I personally feel more comfortable working with, and partnering with people who are willing to “let it all hang out”, and reveal themselves as they are. I’m always weary of the ones that try to have too polished an image on any social networking platform. After all – you have to ask yourself that question, what is is that they’re trying to hide?
As long as you’re sharing things that you would happen to mention in conversation to someone, or you share stuff when you genuinely feel like sharing what you’re upto, then those banal, mundane comments are actually quite enriching. They weave a fabric between the thoughts, and ideas on twitter, to create ever more stickyness between people. After all, it’s a whole lot easier to feel comfortable with someone you’ve shared a “drunk” or “silly”, or “personal” moment with, than someone who’s only every seen the polished, groomed you.