Unless you've been living under a rock for the last year (particularly if it's a rock with no internet connection), chances are you've heard about the 140-characters-or-less blogging service Twitter.com. Hailed by prominent nerds as the best thing to hit the internet since the dancing baby, Twitter has quickly risen to become the web's most popular "micro-blogging" site.
That's all well & good for tech-savvy bloggers who actually know what "micro-blogging" is, but what about you, the average Joe who still uses Netscape to check your Friendster "Testimonials" on a shared computer at the public library? What about people like me, ordinary folks who still fall for the old "My Nigerian Bank Account Is Overflowing With Money And I Need Your Help" routine time and time again? Does Twitter have anything to offer idiots like us? I decided to find out.
Okay... So Why Would I Want To Use That?
To answer this question I'll once again turn to Twitter for an answer. According to the "Why?" page on Twitter.com, "basic updates are meaningful to family members, friends, or colleagues—especially when they’re timely." Let's try to wrap our heads around this baffling statement one part at a time, shall we?
I don't know about you guys, but I spend a good chunk of my time HIDING what I do from my family. Considering that, why would I want to give them a web-based tracking collar that will alert them to my every move? Do I really want them to know how drunk I am (very), what I'm drinking (Evan Williams), and where I'm drinking it (alone under a highway overpass) at any given moment? Besides, attempting to teach my mom how to use Twitter would be like trying to teach a goat how to surf: hilarious, fun to watch, and yet completely pointless and ultimately kind of depressing.
If we're friends, chances are you already have a pretty good idea of what I'm doing. My day-to-day life follows a pretty strict routine (go to work, eat dinner, go get drunk under a highway overpass). If you don't know where to find me at any given point in the day, give me a call and maybe I'll tell you. If you don't know me well enough to call me, well, then you probably don't need to know where I am.
If your colleagues don't know where you are, why in the name of God would you want to make it easier for them to find you?!
Ross Wolinsky: Twitter User
I had some misgivings about this whole Twitter thing, but I decided to give it a shot:
I wasn't totally sure where to go from there, to be honest. I'd told my Twitter followers all about my driving, twittering, and public urination - what was left? I thought that would cover it, that my Twitter feed would be inundated with thousands of fans, all curious to know more about the fascinating minutiae of my daily life. But after 24 hours of back-breaking twittering, I could still count my readers on one hand.
"Looks like it's time for the gloves to come off," I said, mostly because I was in a liquor store buying a bottle of Evan Williams and the gloves were making it hard to take out my wallet. The guy behind the counter just stared at me silently. Maybe he would've said something if he'd known how hard the internet can be. You know - like "Why are you wearing gloves in the middle of summer?" or "Get the hell out of my store."
Checking Out The Competition
Ever since our earliest human ancestors crawled over to a computer, loaded up a Usenet client and posted a message for all to read (probably something along the lines of "Did anyone tape Doctor Who last night?"), man has been drawn to online social networking tools for an obvious reason: to convince himself that he is more popular than he actually is in real life. Picture the guy on MySpace with 500,000 "friends," most of which are inanimate objects and cartoon characters. Picture Tila Tequila. The point of life is to be as popular as humanly possible, and the online world is no exception to this rule.
That being said, I quickly realized that I didn't want to just USE Twitter: I wanted to WIN at Twitter.
So who's currently winning at Twitter? According to the good folks over at Twitterholic.com, the top 5 users are:
Stiff competition, to be sure, but what do these guy have that I don't (other than fame, fortune, and the respect of their peers)? What makes them so interesting that thousands of people want to know when they go to the bathroom? The question had me stumped, so I grabbed a bottle of Evan Williams and headed down to my favorite highway overpass to do some thinking. A few hours later it hit me:
They are all nerds.
Admittedly, Barack Obama doesn't quite fit the equation, but if you look at the Top 100 Twitter users there is an unmistakable pattern: they are mostly tech-oriented blogger types. I had figured out the target demographic - now all I had to do was use it to my advantage.
Ross Wolinsky: Twitter User 2.0
I reclined lazily on the couch and hit refresh a few times, eagerly anticipating the praise and affections of the tech community that I so obviously deserved. Yet somehow even now, almost a whole day later, I'm STILL not a Top 100 Twitter User. Which all leads me to an unfortunate but seemingly unavoidable conclusion:
Twitter is fucking bullshit. Case closed.