Note No. 53

February 19, 2010

So, I finally started tweeting last week.

I know. It only took four years. And it probably would have taken another four, had I not read a post by my favorite blogger, who wrote this really convincing post about why we all need to at least try tweeting, going as far as promising our salvation.

Now, I don’t know if it’s going to save my life, per say, but it might make it better. Here’s a recap of what I’ve learned so far. If it had a title, it’d be How I Went from Staunch Twitter Hater to Begrudging Outsider to Hearty Follower—all in the course of about 1,500 days.

Twitter makes you brave

That’s what P. Trunk promised in her post and I think she might be right.

Writing these Notes on Facebook has made me a degree more confident, because I have been able to practice writing blog style with your occasional feedback. But I am still writing to people I know, whether they are friends or acquaintances, and there are less than 300 of them.

Not that big a deal.

On Twitter, on the other hand, anyone in the world can read what you have written, if you choose to let them, and though you may only be writing 140-character thoughts, you can cram a lot of yourself into those three lines of text. A lot. So it is really just the next baby step away from having a blog—provided you have followers.

To date, I have eight. But only 63% of them are friends. (And Oh my God! Oh my God! One of them is P. Trunk herself. Okay, so I am one of 16, 013 other people she is following but STILL. SHE is following ME. It made signing up worthwhile.)

Twitter is part of self branding

Retch.

Did I really just say that?

Yes, I did. Because as much as I cringe at buzz words, there is something to this one, because as this article states, “It’s all about how it’s framed.” That is: it’s one thing to create a brand that represents you, but it’s another to create one that people are interested in. And like anything in life, if it’s not genuine, people will sense that immediately and stop buying you.

So if the concept of self branding bothers you because it reeks of self obsession, don’t look at it that way; see it as another way to better yourself for the good of everyone around you.

Creating a profile on Twitter is no small task

The day I created my profile, the browser window stayed open nearly 24 hours. After all, this could one day be my business card to the seven continents; I didn’t want to slap up any old thing. I wanted it to be catchy and something that people could associate with me, without using my full name in the handle.

I finally decided on MaggiesKitchen. I was named after my two grandmothers, Margaret and Margarethe, and the American grandmother, the only one I ever met, had a spoon rest that my mom now has and it says “Maggie’s Kitchen.”

Thus, my handle is a nod to my ancestry, as well as to the grand central station that is and always has been my favorite place in the house: a place of warmth, a place of comfort, a place to do anything and everything, from baking bread to solving algebra problems.

Creating a profile on Twitter can help you focus your life

What do I say about myself in 160 characters or less? Not that I like cooking, writing and traveling, that’s for sure, because I hope that those things will come out in my daily posts. But I wanted to say something that was both relevant and banal.

After lots of first, second and ninth drafts filled with red lines and eraser marks, here’s what I wrote:

Good at: first dates; moving every 2 years. Bad at: fifth dates; not moving every 2 years. Working on: longterm commitments.

And I am hoping that those lines remind me each and every day of something pretty big that I want to accomplish. Consider it my mission statement.

Creating a profile on Twitter can make you narcissistic

After you have spent a day, or six, obsessing over the words that are going to define you, once and for all, you are then encouraged to post a photo of yourself, preferably a head shot.

Now, listen. I’m a girl. I have hang ups. I’m sorry; I care what I look like in front of Everyone in the World. And the only head shots I have are the ones from getting my Mexican visa, the ones you see right here on my Facebook profile. But aside from the letdown of using the same image in two different places, I am not wearing glasses in the Facebook one, which is not accurate.

So, yes. I admit I spent a few minutes in Photo Booth, shooting scowl after grimace after smirk until finally, I just looked away from the camera and tried to act natural.

Twitter can subject you to lots of crap

OK. Profile finished. I was finally ready to start following people. And seeing their endless feed of garbage.

One thing I learned right away: do not follow Heather Poole. I thought it’d be fun to see what the flight attendant has to say from 35,000 feet above the rest of us. The reality was: new tweets every two minutes. Seriously. Who has time to do that? Furthermore, who wants to read that much from the same person? Especially when they are all inside jokes with other airline staff, like PissedOffPilot. Maybe I was supposed to read each and every post from each and every person involved for them to not be so exclusive but the angry, aggressive nature of the posts did not inspire me to want to keep reading. When it got to the point that I could actually feel my foot getting unapologetically run over by the proverbial food & beverage cart that she was ramming up the aisle, I unfollowed her.

And a calmness immediately settled over my newsfeed; an air of civility returned and I relaxed.

Twitter can make you realize what people don’t want to hear you say

I like to think of it as My Life Is Average, minus the awkward teen angst. It’s a way to highlight little stories that have stood out from your otherwise ordinary day, because they represent a larger idea than Eat, Drink, Work, Sleep.

Clearly, though, not everyone sees it that way. For one, I really can’t get my head around all the @ symbols and the ugly links that are meshed with words that I think are eventually supposed to form some sort of legible message. Like this:

RT @dckogan Need a new avatar/family portrait/author photo/etc.? In NYC April 24th-25th? Then lucky you! Check it: http://bit.ly/9RGcKa

What the HELL does that mean? (I know what it means. I am just annoyed that I have to try to figure it out.) And I will confess to an @ message. Someone tweeted at me and I tweeted back. But I did not like it. And it changed my status from Something for Everyone, to Something for Two, which I think is what Direct Messages are for. So I deleted the @ tweet that I wrote.

And though I finally get the difference between RT and retweet, it seems other people don’t. Or they get it and I don’t. I don’t know. I skip over those ones. They are clearly not for me anyhow—which brings me back to Direct Messages. Use them.

I vow to use them. I also vow not to tweet more than a few times a day. I originally said once a day, but I broke that rule today when I replied to that tweet, which was breaking my other rule about not using @ symbols, but then I think I undid it all by deleting the @ tweet.

So, yes. I am back to vowing to tweet once a day, @ symbol-free. That’s quite enough chirping, thank you.

Twitter helps you keep your finger on the world’s pulse

The only tweeters who have permission to tweet every few minutes are the news organizations and even there, I propose moderation. Telling me every single Olympic medalist is a tad much.

But P. Trunk was right when she said that another perk to Twitter is that it keeps you up to date on the latest headlines. It’s true. Yesterday, when that guy flew his plane into the IRS building in Austin, I knew about it before my sister did, and she was three miles down the road from where it happened.

And when Twitterers then posted a link (you know, one of those ugly ones I mentioned earlier) to what was reported to be his suicide note, I got the chance to read it before it was taken down by site administrators later in the day—not that reading his rant made it any clearer exactly what the problem was.

Cautionary note: having Onion headlines running on all sides of NY Times and Slate feeds could eventually result in mistaking spoof stories for real ones.

Twitter can make you humble

Just as I have unfollowed someone already, I have also been unfollowed by someone. Granted, I had no idea who she was and all of her tweets seemed to be organizing PTA meetings near her Midwestern residence, so for all I know, it was an accident she started following me in the first place. Thus, I am not too upset by the rejected feeling of suddenly going from nine followers to eight.

That is: I will get out of bed again. Eventually.

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