Why Twitter?

I realise I should probably have explained more about Twitter if I wanted anybody to take the slightest notice 🙂 The site asks ‘what are you doing?’, and you enter a small update on your current thoughts/actions, as often as you like. Anybody who’s interested then receives this either via the Twitter website, via an Instant Messaging service like Google Talk, or via a free text message. It works in reverse, too – these can both be used to update your status.

So far, so what? A tweeting blogger sums it up perfectly:

I’ve heard two kinds of criticisms of Twitter already.

The first criticizes the triviality of the content. But asking “who really cares about that kind of mindless trivia about your day” misses the whole point of presence. This isn’t about conveying complex theory–it’s about letting the people in your distributed network of family and friends have some sense of where you are and what you’re doing. And we crave this, I think. When I travel, the first thing I ask the kids on the phone when I call home is “what are you doing?” Not because I really care that much about the show on TV, or the homework they’re working on, but because I care about the rhythms and activities of their days. No, most people don’t care that I’m sitting in the airport at DCA, or watching a TV show with my husband. But the people who miss being able to share in day-to-day activity with me–family and close friends–do care.

The second type of criticism is that the last thing we need is more interruptions in our already discontinuous and partially attentive connected worlds. What’s interesting to me about Twitter, though, is that it actually reduces my craving to surf the web, ping people via IM, and cruise Facebook. I can keep a Twitter IM window open in the background, and check it occasionally just to see what people are up to. There’s no obligation to respond, which I typically feel when updates come from individuals via IM or email. Or I can just check my text messages or the web site when I feel like getting a big picture of what my friends are up to.

It’s pleasing. And a little sweet. I won’t be using it every five minutes, but I’m finding myself liking the concept more and more. My profile’s here.