I finally broke down and joined part of the social networking revolution. I’m officially no longer behind the rest of the world, at least in one aspect: I’ve been using Twitter on a trial basis for a while now, and I’ve decided I really like it.
See, I’ve never used Myspace… or Facebook… and hardware-wise, I don’t have a Blackberry or an expensive MacBook laptop. I just have Gmail, a $3 Skype microphone I bought in Belgrade last year, and a $500 Dell laptop that does everything I need.
But contrary to expensive gear and other social networks, I think I’ll stick with Twitter for a while, and I think it will grow as other sites like Facebook and MySpace slow down.
My first impressions of the whole concept were probably the same as those from most initial skeptics: “What, I’m supposed to post what I’m doing at this very minute? To begin with, I don’t like the idea of telling a community of random people what I’m doing every day, and further, why would anyone be interested in the trivial details of my life?”
But as I learned, sharing trivial life details is far from the only use of Twitter, and the whole service grows on you as you use it and become part of a community that is not random at all.
Sure, you can use Twitter to tell everyone what you ate for breakfast and what TV shows you’re watching. But some people are using the service to conduct polls, promote their latest blog posts, and schedule meetings. Several people have said that they now use it more than Facebook or any other service.
Work, Travel, and Accessibility
The growing trend of Twitter et al reflects the shift in life and work that has been occurring since the widespread saturation of internet use. I talk to people all over the world every day. If I need some programming or translation work done, I can head over to Elance and have 12 bids from Bangalore on my project within 4 hours.
Although I always like to point out that life hasn’t changed that much for a lot of people in the poorest countries, the rest of us truly live in a different world now. It’s not necessarily good or bad; it’s just reality.
A couple of years ago I flew from Copenhagen to Chicago on SAS Airlines. The plane offered wi-fi access to all passengers, and because they were promoting the new service, the first 15 minutes were free. I logged on and sent a few messages out to friends. “I’m writing you from 34,000 feet over the Atlantic!” I told them excitedly.
One of them wrote back to say that she didn’t like the idea of internet in the skies. “It’s the last refuge of being disconnected from the world,” she said.
I saw her point, and the service from Boeing is now discontinued, but it’s just a matter of time until it becomes common to be in touch with everyone from the last frontiers of being inaccessible. When that time comes, we can look back in lament and talk about the days when we could count on being out of pocket at least from the time the captain told us to turn off all portable electronic devices.
But change is the only constant characteristic of advancement. If you want to ignore the world, you can always turn off your computer and phone whether you’re on the plane or anywhere else. You don’t have to answer your phone if you don’t want to, and no one says you have to check your email ten times a day.
The burden is increasingly on us to plan our own lives free of external restraint. Personal responsibility is a scary thing, but if you harness it well, you can have a tremendous impact on the world.
So despite my disinterest in other social networks, here I am on Twitter. Come and say hello if you’re a user.