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What I like most about Twitter

What I like most about Twitter is that it is guilt free. The world universally recognizes that no one should feel obligated to scroll through all the tweets we have received since the last time we checked. We are free to browse as we wish and let the rest scroll down into oblivion.

Years ago NPR discussed novelists’ varying levels of commitment to reading the books of other novelists. Specifically, did they owe it to other novelists to read what they had written if they hoped that other novelists would read their work?

Opinions, as we may expect, varied.

Some read broadly, keeping on top of the many novels newly published, or at least those in their own genre. They wanted to see how other novelists resolved technical problems of plot or character development. They wanted to keep abreast of trends in the publishing industry and hot themes. Or they simply enjoyed novels.

Other novelists did not reciprocate. Some did not read other people’s books because it took time away from their own writing. Or they feared they would absorb the ideas of others, becoming more derivative and less true to their own voice. Or they simply were more driven to write fiction than to read it.

Some were uncomfortable in admitting to NPR how few novels they read. And others were blissfully unrepentant.

I was glad not to be a novelist, recognizing that I’d most likely feel twinges of guilt in not keeping up with the work of my peers.

How does this relate to Twitter?

I log in to Twitter maybe once or twice a day and scan a few screens. I retweet or reply to a tweet only about once or twice a day because frankly, much of what I see is not of interest. While I too fall back on tweeting quotations of others, I try to limit myself to statements that actually intrigue or inspire me. And I’m most proud to say that I only post a link to someone else’s article if I have actually read the darned thing.

Twitter promotes the concept of community and bonding with others and helping them. But even my moderate-size list is overwhelming if I were to feel some type of obligation to everyone else.

Thankfully, the Twitter world has taken me off its hook.

Facebook and LinkedIn are easily overwhelming. Both send me more updates than I need. And frankly, some of the detail—such as online groups joined and profile tweaks—is too much.

Twitter is the only social networking tool among the Big Three that just keeps scrolling out to sea.

I can dip my toe into it when I feel like it and let the mighty waters flow on in my absence.

Just like the Mississippi.

So let it keep on rollin’.


Originally posted 7-12-10

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