Twitter just reminded me this past week that I had been hanging around for ten years now.
I want to say up front that I actually like Twitter. I certainly enjoy it more than Facebook, which I mostly avoid. I also have an Instagram account, but it somehow became dedicated entirely to posting pictures of our cats. And I guess the blog is social media of a sort.
But I was little dubious about the idea of a 140 character… now 280 character… “micro-blogging” service back when it started to become popular, so I waited a bit before joining in. But after ten years I will say that I am satisfied at what I get out of the service.
That, I would guess, is largely based on my use pattern and expectations, both of which are relatively low.
As of this moment, Twitter says I have made about 17,500 tweets, which feels like a big number, but really isn’t. Divided over 10 years, that is about four tweets (including replies) a day. Since I hooked up both of my blogs to auto-post any new article to Twitter, about 25% of my tweets are blog post links.
And of the other posts, most of them are pretty light. Attempts at humor. Responses to other people. Nothing all that big, interesting, or controversial. I often start replies then delete them because I don’t feel they add anything to the discussion or because I am sure somebody must have made the point I want to make already. As my profile says, I try to keep things mostly about video games.
I do try to steer clear of politics, but I also have no interest in having multiple accounts, so that does get mixed in there at times. I follow a number of free speech advocates, which started with Popehat, whose blog I used to read back when he had time to blog. That seemed safe to me as I view free speech as pretty non-controversial. People who seek to limit speech are almost 100% interested in only limiting speech they disagree with and whine incessantly if they feel their speech rights are somehow being impinged upon, even when they are not.
Free speech is a root freedom which makes other freedoms possible. Kill the root and the tree dies.
Of course, here in 2020, everything is now political, from anything that might help control the current pandemic to vaginal lubrication, and some things are just so stupid that I cannot stay away. But it isn’t my normal mode.
Mostly my tweets, my non-blog post tweets, are interactions with people I probably have some other connection to… though that connection is likely the blog, so things do seem to come back to this site.
Part of my enjoyment of Twitter is probably also related to who I follow. I think one of the keys to the platform is not following everybody who might say something in which you are interested, but finding people who do follow a lot of people and retweet only the interesting bits. (A hat tip to Popehat for that yeoman effort.)
Having discovered that, I set an arbitrary limit of following only 500 accounts. That seems to be, for me, about the threshold of my ability to read/care. I would guess that maybe 400 of those accounts are very low traffic, made up of people I know and official game company accounts, along with a few key developers. Some of those accounts generate no traffic. I am still waiting and watching for any news about Planet Michael. The last tweet there was in 2011, but the next one could be any time.
And, because I follow and interact with people in other forums as well, I don’t feel the need to follow everybody on every service. If your Twitter feed is mostly blog posts and I already subscribe to your RSS feed in Feedly, I probably don’t feel the need to also follow you on Twitter. It isn’t that I don’t like you, it is just an attempt to keep Twitter manageable and I already read your stuff elsewhere.
I am sure that not playing the follow back game religiously costs me some followers, but the people into that… and I get some follows from people obviously looking for that reciprocity… probably aren’t worth my time anyway.
I also very rarely block people on Twitter. Blocking is an extreme measure in my view, they can no longer see your tweets and you can no longer see theirs, plus they get a notification about it I think. It sends a strong message in my opinion, so I try to save it for those who really earn it.
I do mute people though. That is a much softer touch. I might do that to people who I follow and enjoy, but who are getting a bit spammy about something that isn’t all that interesting to me. I declare a mute amnesty every once in a while and go unmute everybody again and start over.
I do not follow many big celebrities. Or any, really, depending on your measurement of “big.” Their accounts are inevitably disappointing. They either have a social media person running their account, so their feed is safe and bland, or they don’t, and you quickly realize they live in a bubble so outside the experience of average people as to be bizarre. The meme is “first world problems” but there is clearly a step beyond that with “rich people problems.”
So it goes.
In the last decade, my greatest Twitter achievement ever involved me tweeting the following:
65 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser?
David Burge, whom I follow for his car pictures (and #DavesCarIDService) posted a few car pictures challenging his followers to do the identifications themselves. I got the first one right.
I imagine I will never top that.
(A neighbor years back had a 65 Oldsmobile hearse, so I knew the body style for that year, and Olds had a series of wagons with that popped up roof with the extra window under the Vista Cruiser name for about a decade, so it was right up my alley.)
So, as I said at the top, I like Twitter, but largely because I have found a way to get value out of it without expending too much effort. There are times, especially these days, when I doom scroll with the best of them, rolling through all the bad news popping up. But mostly I try to keep it light, just reading what comes by and not responding if I do not have anything to add. (Which includes checking to see if somebody has already replied with what I wanted to say. No need to have it said twice.) I mute the crazies, avoid the spammy, and try not to take it all that seriously.
And that is about it. I have cranked out more than a thousand words about a service that limits you to 280 characters per message, which I am sure says something about me.