My relationship with Twitter began about two years ago when I was offered a prospective fortnightly column in TimeOut Hong Kong writing a series of 24-hour ‘tweet diaries’ about special events or daily life in the city. Not knowing anything about the medium I thought it best to sign up and get used to the thing, so I created a username, uploaded a picture and started writing infrequent updates about my mundane existence. The audience for these tweets generally consisted of a few friends who I knew used the service, various maniacal twitterers with upwards of fifty-thousand ‘follows’, and the odd pornography bot spouting on about butt-plugs and bargain-basement buggery. I think I lasted all of two weeks before the inanity of what I was doing struck me and I bailed out.
Recently though, in an ineffective bid to increase the readership of this blog (which wavers somewhere between nothing and barely anything on most days), I set up another Twitter account and started the whole sorry process again. Of course, nothing had really changed in the interim, other than slightly less people I knew were on it, and there seemed to be inordinately more sex-bots prowling the site in search of hapless sweaty clickers. I followed a few people of interest, was followed myself largely by marketing folks selling shit out of cardboard boxes, and idled away a few hours sending the odd tweet, chatting to friends and replying to or retweeting tweets which were funny or interesting, or both. But now I feel pretty much back to where I was just under two years ago, when I decided Twitter was pointless.
Having said all this, if you follow the right people, you can be directed to some very interesting articles, videos or online projects which you might otherwise have missed. It was through Twitter, for example, that I discovered the Top Documentary Films website, which has a collection of thousands of watchable documentary series available online; the Topsoil website, which is a sort of writing collective working towards equality and solidarity; and a fellow called David Kozin, who is looking to research a medical condition close to my heart known as HPPD. So clearly there are resources to be found if you look in the right places.
My main problem with the site, however, is that it seems largely to be populated (outside of the marketing folk and sex-bots) by people feverishly writing acerbic or witty one-liners about nothing at all. And more often than not, they’re not very good at it. In fact, most of the people I follow (which is probably where I’m going wrong), spend all day every day harping on about bugger-all in a certain withering tone of satire, farce, aggression and ‘oh my god I’d better write something’ desperation. Some of them make me smile, some don’t. All of them whiff faintly of futility.
None of this should be read as an end to my Twitter revisitation though. I think I just need to recalibrate my expectations, organise my feed a little better (by cutting the nitwits), and use Twitter for what it is evidently good at: exchanging information, disseminating knowledge and cultivating ideas (some of which can of course be acerbic and witty). Graham Linehan is perhaps best of all at striking this balance.
Whether I’ll write anything myself or simply use it as a dynamic resource for information is of very little consequence. With no followers or method for acquiring followers I may as well shout my opinions into an empty beancan.
Incidentally, my TimeOut ‘tweet diaries’ never got past the initial submission, which I blame solely on the format.