As if there were any doubt, my true nerd nature is about to come through. Some of my admissions in this post will be embarrassing, but it gets my point across about Twitter.
I freely admit that I am a Trekkie. I can usually name most of The Original Series episode titles having seen just a few seconds of one. I am not, however, a “Trekker”. I don’t have a Star Fleet uniform in my closet (although I did have a model phaser when I was a teenager), nor to I dress up like a Klingon and attend conventions.
So what does this have to do with Twitter? I’ll get to that in a moment. I signed up for Twitter as a matter of convenience. It was a simple way of updating my blog and Facebook from one location. I didn’t really have any intention of “following” anyone on Twitter, but soon I got tired of looking at my own updates. I added a few friends and locals that I knew from other social networking sites.
Soon, however, I found that you could follow the famous. I added BarackObama to my list and kept track of the campaign. I added a few others out of curiosity. Then I discovered the “@” reply function. I could actually send a message to @BarackObama through my own updates, though I never attempted to do so.
Even though he was my least favorite character on Star Trek: Next Generation, I found Wil Wheaton to be a proponent of social networking and a creative blogger, and followed his posts for awhile. When I found out that he was on Twitter, I started following his Tweets. Then I discovered that Levar Burton had hopped onto Twitter. I added him, Brent Spiner, and William Shatner to the list. What ensued was this bizaare public conversation where these stars reconnected through Twitter, made lunch plans, made jokes about each other, and really seemed to be normal, everyday people.
Even though these people are using the same medium I am, and their Twitter updates appear on the same screen as those of mine and my local friends, it may look like the same universe but it isn’t.
These people have thousands of followers (as opposed to my paltry 63 followers). Any comment is bound to illicit tons of @ responses. Comedian John Hodgman (the PC guy) refers to this as “poking the hive mind.” Now in a normal chat environment I’m usually one to enjoy a witty retort, and offer one in response. So, when Brent Spiner complains about his cell phone’s lack of a camera but does state the follow…
BrentSpiner I do have a refrigerator in my phone.
…I’m tempted to respond to @BrentSpiner with, “But what about a kitchen sink?” However, I know that hundreds of others have probably sent that same message, so I hold off.
The upshot is that Twitter can appear to be a normal conversation, but it’s anything but that. If you’re someone with loads of followers then you can probe Hodgman’s “hive mind” for answers to any question you might have. However, if you are at the level that allows you to probe the hive mind effectively, you’re probably also at a level that brings about unwanted responses, and Twitter provides no good filters.
As for me, I’ll continue to use Twitter for what I had originally intended – quick updates. If anyone follows, then fine. I’ll still follow the occasional celebrity (Star Trek or otherwise) but I will have no delusions that I’ll get a response to an @ reply just because we both happen to be on Twitter.