The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
July 29, 2008

Why Twitter?

Yay! I used intense reasoning and peer pressure to get Burbanmom to join Twitter, and she hasn’t really tweeted yet! That’s okay. It took me months to start tweeting, and it wasn’t until all the fun at the Blogher conference that I realized what the crazy progam was good for. So now that I do, I thought I’d share my thoughts about Twitter, in the hopes that more greenies will join and add their green voices to the Twittersphere.

Before I continue, I want to say that I am receiving no compensation or other incentive from Twitter to talk it up. My whole reason for writing this post is that I have a dream of a big green Twitter community able to send and receive information from each other, plan activist strategies or just lend moral support, using a tool that is a bit more direct and raw than blogging. And I hope that after reading this post, many of you will be inspired to join up if Twitter sounds like a tool that would work for you.

Okay. What is it? Twitter is a social networking program that works kind of like a bulletin board service. The catch is that each message, or “tweet” can only be a maximum of 140 characters long. (Some people flaut this rule by breaking up their missives into multiple tweets, but that misses the point.) The character limit forces you to condense your thought to its essence and get it out to the world in real time, capturing the fun ways that our minds actually work when we’re not planning and editing longer emails and blog posts.

What’s the first thing to do when you join? Find other members to follow. Does a tweet really make a sound if no one’s there to hear it? I’m thinking not. So use the Search to find other members on Twitter. I’m following other green bloggers like Green Bean, Mama Bird, Green LA Girl, and No Impact Man, to name just a few. I’m even following my new bicycle Barak Obama, although he doesn’t tweet as often as I’d like. Once you find one person to follow, check the list of people they are following to find others. Or invite new people from your personal address book to join.

Okay, you’re set up with your account and your people. What next? If you are a blogger, you can also link your blog feed to your Twitter account. Twitterfeed can automatically post an announcement for you every time you publish a new blog post. But be warned: If you ONLY use Twitter to announce new blog posts, you will lose followers. People want to know what you’re thinking about the world as you live life.

If you want to carry Twitter with you and be able to send and receive messages in real time, you can set up your mobile device to receive text messages from the Twitter members of your choice. I was doing that for a while but was finally overwhelmed with texts and turned off the feature. And since I have Internet access on my phone anyway, I can just login to the mobile version of Twitter (m.twitter.com) to check messages through the web site.

Next, read what folks are saying and tweet yourself. You’ll soon learn ways that it can be useful to you. Use it to spread messages about your passion. Have a campaign (like Take Back The Filter, for example)? Tweet about it, and ask others to Tweet about it too. Need help with a gardening or repair or software problem? Ask your question in a tweet and see how many responses you get. Have a great idea and want to let your people know right away? Tweet it as you think it.

If it sounds like Twitter could be an addictive time suck, you are right. It can be. But I don’t think it’s any more time-suckingly addictive than any other online tool. And used in a responsible manner, it can be just that… a great tool. Maybe you, like me, need to limit yourself to checking it only certain times during the day. Maybe you need to set a timer. Or maybe you are a healthy, non-addictive person who can manage just fine without restrictions. The point is, Twitter is what we make it. And there are so many crazy messages being blasted out there, why not add a few sane ones of our own?

Okay, my messages are not always sane. I did tweet about the fact that Michael likes our friends’ plastic cat litter scoop so much, he wants to marry it. But as a result, I got some suggestions about other non-plastic cat litter scoops to try. So crazy doesn’t always beget crazy in return. Your mileage may vary.

My Twitter ID is plasticfreebeth.¬†What’s yours? Please leave comments here about your experiences with Twitter and other ways to use it for good or evil. I’d love to hear what you think.

16 comments
Anonymous
Anonymous

Did you know you can put a Twitter window on your blog to show your twitters? I have one on my blog but I'm not sure what my Twitter name is...:)Mel

CindyW
CindyW

On the one hand, I am afraid to become the old dinosaur as my dad who refuses to use email. Snail mail is the only way for him. So I try to keep up with the new technology.On the other hand, I understand Clif completely. There is the phenomenon of having the tool first then creating the demand. I feel that Twitter sort of falls into that category. I used it a number of times until I got several tweets about so and so heating up noodles in the microwave or so and so folding laundry. It reminds me that I too have lunch to eat and laundry to fold. And work to do, books to read, kids to play with, friends to have a drink with, a dog to walk, etc. I am not doing all those things particularly well. So I more or less quit tweeting.

Flint
Flint

(Duplicated in response to your comment on my site)Hi Beth,If you want a standalone PC tool for Twitter I'd suggest Twhirl, but if you're interested in something a little more "converged" you might want to give Digsby a try. It pulls together IM, social networking (including Twitter) and email notification and management. I find this particularly easy because it acts as a single place to disable all notifications when I want don't want to be distracted.I'd be interested to hear more about your thoughts on the post you're planning. I've posted a couple of "Effective Internet Lockdown" articles that you may find related to what you're thinking :)

Flint
Flint

Hi FPF, in case you want to give your friend some more reasons to use Twitter, I actually just blogged on the topic last week (link through my profile).@arduous It's easier to do from IM and mobile? ;) You can also set Twitter up to update your FB status so you achieve both at the same time.

Clif
Clif

Beth, you said you can take or leave Twitter, use it or not.This is true of so much that we do and the first thing that someone will say who is addicted. It's no accident that the word "Crackberry" is in use. Every retailer knows that the biggest hurdle is getting the potential customer in the store. My initial comment was not just for you but to try to counter your post for others who might be reading.The question people ask is how did we get in the fix we are in with so much stress. It is because it is easy and appealing to do what everyone else is doing. It's hard to buck trends and Twitter is THE THING right now.My appeal is: don't add another layer. It is hard to resist but if you don't it is extremely hard to get out of it. A service like Twitter is doubly seductive because it seems so harmless, seems to ask so little of our time, isn't a product that consumes any material thing.The comments on FPF are 99% positive. You have a dedicated following, including me, and whatever you put on your blog you can be almost certain of generous applause from the gallery. I'm glad you visualized me when you were writing the Twitter piece and I hope my arguments will remain with you in case you should change your mind.

Melissa
Melissa

OK, I kind of have the same question as arduous but I'll give it a shot and see how it goes!

Robj98168
Robj98168

I haven't tweeted in a long time- did feel real comfortable being on a program with the word twit in it. Gives folks ideas!

Fake Plastic Fish
Fake Plastic Fish

Clif, I totally predicted your response. I wish I had been betting someone. In fact, as I wrote that post, I envisioned you over my shoulder arguing with everything I said. Wanna know what you look like in my imagination?But here's the thing... as I said, Twitter is what you make of it. It can contribute to info overload, but it doesn't have to. Some people can drink responsibly (I don't know if I ever can) and some people can Twitter responsibly. It remains to be seen. (Seems like Green Bean has the right idea.)Arduous, Twittering is different from updating your FaceBook status, although you can link the two together somehow and one can update the other. Imagine one place where everyone's FaceBook statuses spoke to one another and answered each others' questions. And where FaceBook statuses were archived in a feed so that you could follow what someone cared to share during the day and look up previous messages. It's different. You'll see.As for peer pressuring you, all I can say is muhahahahahaha! My powers are limitless!

Clif
Clif

Yikes, adding more frenzy! Would I like someone constantly behind me tapping me on the shoulder and saying "scuze me!". I've seen promotions telling me I can know what my friends are doing RIGHT NOW! I'd rather know what I'm doing.I'm with you on the retreat to the serenity of nature, Beth, but Twitter seems like madness. Why would anyone want to be constantly available? Cellphones, email overload, more than enough information to overwhelm on the Net and now continual tweets?I propose an anti-Twitter, possible names: E-Blok, iOff, ZapOut, where all electronic communication is muted automatically for at least 30 minutes when stress level is detected over a certain level.I deliberately restrict my emails to my friends because I don't want to add to their E-load unless it is something of some importance.I think being constantly "in touch" can be addictive, a kind of stimulation that can build to unhealthy levels where we are never more than seconds from distraction, in cyberspace more and more and in the actual physical world around us less and less...multitasking disorder...maybe it will be in the next edition of the DSM V?

Burbanmom
Burbanmom

I may not have tweeted yet, but I've pooted four times just sitting here.I think I'm lactose intolerant.

arduous
arduous

Okay FINE. I have been peer pressured into this by Fake Plastic Fish who also turned me onto technorati of which I used to be blissfully unaware.

Green Bean
Green Bean

tweet, tweet!Arduous, I'm sure someone can explain this better than I but it's very similar to updating your Facebook status except you can do it by mobile, insert links and probably more.Twitter is kind of interesting - a little peek into other people's lives. In a way, it feels very intimate.I only check it once or twice a day. Anything more and, for me, it would feel like a huge time suck. I was surprised that EVERYONE at Blogher is on Twitter. I joined because I think it is important to try to keep up with what folks are doing to a degree to keep green voices being heard. There is only so much time in the day though.

Allie
Allie

Hi Twitter Friend!I thought Twitter was a waste when I first joined and didn't use it for ages, but now I love it. It's nice to have some "company" when I'm working alone.

har mar
har mar

HATE twitter. for e.are you coming to work tomorrow?

arduous
arduous

What's the difference between twitter and updating your Facebook status though?

Hillary
Hillary

LOL cat litter scoop... my mom has been using a metal slotted spoon (originally intended for scooping vegetables out of boiling water) forever. Works great!I like reading people's Twitter feeds through my feed reader but haven't yet felt moved to start my own...