Social Media Awareness: What I’ve Learned After a Year on Twitter

March 5, 2012 § 7 Comments

“How does Twitter work?  Who is it for?  I tried it and I don’t get it.”

This was a question that my mom asked me in December.  Not entirely surprising that our parents generation wouldn’t completely understand a “new technology” but at the same time, it didn’t take our parents long to become more obsessed with Facebook than I ever was.  It seemed like our parents were dominating that website much more than young adults were by the time it had become the most popular website in the world and maybe that’s why many people were wondering if Twitter was an escape from that.

However, not understanding Twitter isn’t a generational thing.  My friends have asked me the exact same question and even I was unsure of how Twitter worked until about a year ago.

The most popular trend I see with people signing up for Twitter: They sign up, they don’t understand it, they’re not going back to Twitter ever again within a week.  Because they don’t have any Followers, they don’t have a need to tweet, so does that mean that Twitter isn’t useful to them?  Well, no, because Twitter isn’t actually about YOU.  I know, that’s a really difficult concept to grasp in this era of social media.

Facebook is about sharing YOUR life and also keeping in touch with others.  But it’s still mostly about you.  And that selfishness is what allows us to keep in touch with everyone we know from around the world.  So people go to Twitter and they believe that because it’s called “Social Media” then it must be about sharing, right?

Yes, it is about sharing but it’s not necessarily about sharing about yourself.  That’s the hard part to grasp.  That’s the reason that Twitter probably has millions of wasted accounts because people showed up to the party and didn’t understand the game so they went back to where they feel comfortable: Facebook and RedTube.

I had to go back to my “wasted account” when I finally found my own use for Twitter and then I finally started to understand it.  It doesn’t take long to get a grasp on the why’s and how’s of Twitter but you do have to give it an honest shot before you’ll understand what Twitter is really for.  This is some of what I’ve learned in the last year:

Twitter IS NOT Facebook.  Nobody On Twitter Cares About What You’re Doing.

With that being said, I still find it hard to believe that anyone on Facebook gives a shit about what you had for lunch or that you’re buying shoes for your kitten, but I’ll stay on topic here.  If there is a place for that, it’s Facebook.  Twitter is not for sharing your life.

But those damn celebrities have given you the wrong impression because Ashton Kutcher might say mundane shit and so you think “Oh cool, this is where I can say mundane shit!”  Except that the idea behind Twitter is about giving people 140 characters of something useful.  It’s hard to justify what you’re doing as being useful information to anyone in the world except you.

Comedian @JoeMande, TwitterFamous for ragging on celebrities on Twitter, probably said it best when he said: “I don’t know why anyone would use Twitter if you’re not a comedy writer or a journalist. I don’t know why anyone else would want to read the thoughts of anyone who wasn’t funny or had useful information to share.”

The only things you can really make useful in 140 characters is news and a laugh.  I write for five different websites, so I am trying to share my writing with the world and I also try to make you laugh.  Whether or not you do, that’s up to you, but even if you’re not funny at least if you’re tweeting a joke then at least you’re trying to give me something useful in 140 characters.

What am I going to do with the information that it turns out your baby doesn’t like apple sauce?

The most difficult concept of Twitter that people can’t get a grasp on and why we all say “What the fuck is it?!?!” before we use it, is that Twitter is actually something that most people should use as a news source and not as a place to actually tweet anything.  The awesome part is that you can follow your favorite journalists and comedians and feel like you’re connected to them because you can actually ask them direct questions and they might actually respond.  But Twitter isn’t necessarily about you.  That’s Facebook.  Do that on Facebook.

Trends Are Usually the Bane of American Existence

Ugh.  Twitter trends.  At first, this seems like your ticket to a million followers!  What’s trending?  Okay, let’s go with that!  Understanding trends is another key step in understanding Twitter and here’s the thing about trends: Most of us are fucking idiots :(

The only use of a trend is that when news breaks, you might find out something important.  After all, when a celebrity dies or something major happens, it’s very likely that millions of us are now finding that information on Twitter.  The reason that it’s so important is that we now have up-to-the-second news.  When something happens, the power of social media is able to spread it to all of us in a matter of moments.  Imagine taking Paul Revere and shrinking him down to the size of an atom and then multiplying him by 10 billion and sending him at light speeds through millions of tubes that reach every nook and cranny of America… that’s how news breaks now.

Those are the tiny moments of trends that are useful.  Then there’s the majority of trends that just make me sad about how un-funny, un-original, dramatic, and crazy most of America is.  Just as an example, I’m going to look at what’s trending right now:

Well there’s Stevie Johnson and Arian Foster, which I get because they signed new contracts today in the NFL.  This is important NFL news and that’s how I found out about these signings.

We also have #SongsThatWillAlwaysBump, #SometimesYouHaveTo, #middlefingerup

I don’t think that “sigh” is a strong enough word anymore.

The funny thing is that two of the top three tweets are #middlefingerup to cancer.  Which is like, “Yeah! Fuck cancer!”  I get that.  It’s awesome that if you have a good cause, Twitter is also a way to spread the cause amazingly quick and to millions of people.

The third top tweet is “#middlefingerup to Monday.” by Will Ferrel Parody.  First of all, that’s not even funny.  It’s not even a joke.  It’s so god damn unoriginal and basic.  This was the best #middlefingerup joke out of all of them?  Second of all, this is what people found to be as important as #middlefingerup to cancer and now you’ve got millions of people saying really useless #middlefingerup tweets like “to the people who are way too jealous of me”, “to the bitch that turned that good guy into a dog!”, “to all u fake people”, and “to the people who are sexy and they know it.”

Those are just the first four in the list.  It’s all just so stupid.  So useless.  Not only do trends suck, but people like Will Ferrel Parody who just use it to be trending make me sick.  And that account has 1 million followers.  A million.  To the point where a Will Ferrel Parody account is actually incredibly powerful because he can reach a million people in a second and when you can reach that many people that quickly, you’re basically more powerful than NBC because they haven’t reached a million people at once since Must See TV.

I fucking hate trends more now than I did in high school.

I Never Thought I’d Hate a SexBot

Slowly and surely, greed will destroy the human race.  It’s just that right now, it’s destroying many parts of the internet.  Spam and junk mail destroyed Hotmail as an e-mail service.  Just before MySpace was going to be completely useless and overtaken by Facebook anyway, it became an absolute joke when accounts were easily hacked and every post on your wall was about a $25 itunes gift card.

I don’t know if it’s genius or terrifying, but those same greedy bastards that sent out millions of spam e-mails and took down MySpace are also the same people that doubled your followers.  So it’s almost bittersweet, though in our hearts we know that many of them are fake.  Eventually, the SexBots are removed but at first it can be a little disheartening to think “Oh hey, new follower!” and then see that it’s just a link to cam4sex or something.  You just have to ignore the followers number and just keep doing your thing.

The Best Way to Become Popular is to Just Already Be Popular.  But Keep Working at it.  You’ll Get There.

Like I said before, I started getting back into writing a year ago.  In a year I’ve moved from a few articles a week on one website with a couple thousand hits a day, to five websites and 25 articles a week with an audience of over 10,000 people at any given time.  Those are rough numbers, but I know that I have a reach unlike anything I had in the beginning.

I have that reach and yet I still only eclipsed 300 followers last month.  If you are a hot girl and you join Twitter today, you’ll have more than 300 followers by the time you’re done reading this sentence.

I’m not bitter about it though.  I have been working very hard for this last year and I am still in disbelief sometimes that there are people that actually read what I have to say and think I don’t suck.  I’m very grateful for that.  And it’s crazy to me that people actually pay me to write.  That’s insane.  And hopefully if I keep working hard at it, I’ll be able to call writing my full-time job.  However, it’s still important (and I hate to say this) to have a lot of followers on Twitter, because this is the world we live in now.  Your reach matters.

Back when MySpace first grew in popularity, it was all about how many friends you had.  That was the most important thing to people.  How many friends do I have and why does that person have more friends than me I hate myself!!!  I believe the rumor is that Tila Tequila, the first Social Media celebrity, moved from Friendster to MySpace because Friendster had a 500 friend limit.  Well, that simply would not do for her, so she went to MySpace and all of a sudden it exploded.

Then we all went to Facebook and people were still really concerned how many friends they had, including myself.  It was honestly important to me and I would have accepted all friend requests and added people just because I knew they would accept because, “Hey, one more friend!”  But as we get older, we realize, “God damn, that’s the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever heard of.”

It doesn’t fucking matter how many Facebook friends you have.  When I realized how stupid that was, I unfriended… and unfriended… and unfriended.. until I had almost unfriended half of my “friends.”  It’s not because I’m a jerk, it’s because these people weren’t even close to being my actual friend.  I have like six real life friends.  Hey, my acquaintances might be cool ass people, but we have never actually call each other to hang out.  Why do I give a shit about what’s going on in your life?  Vice versa, why the hell should you care about what’s going on in mine?

Sorry, we’re not friends.  Actually, I’m not sorry and neither should you be.  We’re just not on friends and the “number” of friends I have couldn’t be less meaningful to me.

However, the number of “Followers” you have can be the most important thing depending on how you’re using Twitter.  I mean, very literally there are people on Twitter that made there dreams come true because of Twitter.  People like Megan Amram, who became a Twitter comedian celebrity and then was offered writing jobs that I pray to one day have.  If you’re already a celebrity, then you’re set, but to build from nothing into something takes a lot of work, luck, and doesn’t happen over night.

It’s all about re-tweets and favorites and only putting out quality material.  I’m trying my best and come a long way in a year thanks to what I’ve learned and how I apply that.  I’m not telling you how to use Twitter or trying to discourage you from tweeting, but hopefully what I’ve learned in a year is useful knowledge if you’re still wondering the same questions that my mom wonders.  “What is Twitter?”

It’s a lot of things.  But this has been an explanation of what it is to me.




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§ 7 Responses to Social Media Awareness: What I’ve Learned After a Year on Twitter

  • I’ve been having discussions recently with friends and co-workers as to why I believe Twitter is amazing, and I just haven’t been able to properly explain it to anybody..this is a perfect explanation. You did a damn fine job, sir.
    Great post. :)

  • Fabio says:

    Hey Kenneth,
    This is Fábio from Brazil and I just read your post about Twitter and I have to say that I agree with you and use Twitter for the same purpose you do. I follow news websites to keep me informed, and I never Twitter. I find it very annoying when people tweet things like “I am going to the gym”. For that reason, I don’t generally follow personal accounts.
    Kudos on your posts.

    (I like your writing, although you write pretty long posts)

  • Hello,
    Thanks for the twitter explanation. I have been told by many to get on twitter, but facebook news feed makes me want to stick a spoon in my eye, therefore I was not in a huge hurry to check twitter out. Alas, I got an account and went to follow ‘kenneth author’ with no success. So, how do become a follower of you? (Those are words I’ve never said in a sentence before..hmmm)

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