Last week I clipped an article out the newspaper. Yes, please note that I used actual scissors to cut a piece of what is an actual newspaper. My husband and I are holdout subscribers, though our local newspaper has shrunk noticeably in recent years and we do wonder when it is going to vanish for good. My husband reads the newspaper much more faithfully than I do, but I sometimes enjoy a good editorial or two as I eat breakfast, and thus it was that I saw and clipped Leonard Pitts’s article about signing up for Twitter. Four years ago he made a promise never to do Twitter, and he confessed in this article that he had broken his vow.
Ah, you and me both, Leonard.
I created a Twitter account because I was told that writers need to do social media. So now every few days I open Twitter and glance through the avalanche of tweets that I have received. I can’t believe what some people tweet. (And Leonard Pitts mentioned this, too, as one of things that drove him nuts.) Why do people tell all of humanity about what they had for lunch? Who in the world cares? It comes down to a crazy numbers game, in which quantity trumps quality, and whoever sends the most tweets wins. This numbers game involves followers, too, and the people you follow. To get people to follow you, you follow them. I first chose a few journalists and organizations to follow because I thought their tweets might be interesting. I soon realized that to be a real Twitterer you have to have thousands of followers, and that means that you follow thousands. For heaven’s sake, who can read even a fraction of that? (Get a life and get up from the computer!!!) I thought this was completely overwhelming, and for a while I just gave up.
This summer, like a good responsible writer who is trying not to be paleolithic, I went back to Twitter. I have been tweeting (but only when I actually have something to say) and I have been following people that I think I may have something in common with. And more people have been following me. I am not fooled, however. I know that they are not following me because they want to read my posts and tweets. They are following me because they hope I will follow them back and read their posts and tweets. Often I sense a desperation in this that makes me a little sad.
Every now and then, however, something good happens. About a month ago, through a connection made on Twitter, I met another writer (yes, face to face) and we had an interesting conversation (not just an e-conversation, but an over-coffee conversation). I hold out hope that other fruitful Twitter connections might eventually come along. In the meantime, I don’t criticize Leonard Pitts for selling out, breaking his no-Twitter vow. He is a journalist, one of the people who should be on Twitter. He has something to say. As long as he doesn’t resort to tweeting about what he had for lunch.