Observations On My 5 Year Anniversary on Twitter—The Best and the Worst of Times

Twitter_Good_Bad It’s hard to believe five years ago today I began this Twitter journey. It’s one of those paradoxes in time that seems longer and shorter than it really is—all at the same time.

Five years.

A lot has happened in five years, both good and bad.

Jan. 8, 2008

As of today I have 42,134 followers and I have written 19,179 updates. My following roughly equals a city the size of Dublin, California and if I spent 15 seconds on each update, I have invested (or burned) eighty hours of my life. About two work weeks in five years.

To coin Dickens, it was the best and the worst of times. Here are five personal observations of the very best and the very worst of Twitter.

The Worst

1. When you go through a personal crisis and conduct most of your business through social networks, it sucks to get up in the morning and go to “tweet.”

At the height of my crisis, Mom gently suggested I get off social networks for a while, and I responded equally as gently, “Mom, that is like my brother not going to the office to work for a few months because he is going through personal stuff. His boss would not take that well. He would lose his job.”

2. Being ostracized hurts as much (or more) on Twitter than in real life. 

Probably because it is 24/7. In real life at least you get moments of reprieve when you are not around cruel people. Ever been hurt when someone didn’t retweet you. You get the picture.

3. We tend to think Twitter personalities are real.

Unfortunately, Twitter magnifies our shadow selves, and our true self is hidden. Try spending time with one of the trendy sparkling Twitter personalities. They simply are not present in real time and space. In other words, they are bores.

4. We tend to think social networks are real.

Social networks are not real. Real is real. What we do is not who we are. We get addicted to what is not real.

5. It is addicting.

How many times have I been around friends who are addicted to social networking and they never quit looking at their phone. Or to lunch with someone, who cannot quit consulting his phone. Twitter is the new cigarette. It takes away the magic of moments. Twitter time is minutes, not moments.

The Best

1. It connects us globally in real time.

When Egypt was torn by violence and the government censored all communication, Twitter was the only way my friend Mark was able to tell the true story of events real time to the outside world.

2. You can build a new tribe—fast.

The power to search Twitter biographies by location and affinity provide an amazing opportunity to build new tribes and following. When most of my former tribe ostracized me on social networks because of my personal crisis, I was forced to methodically build a new tribe. It has proven to be a source of encouragement in the middle of the worst.

3. Twitter personalities can be real.

I’ve had the rare opportunity to meet someone physically who was even better than the personality I had previously only known virtually. That is very cool. Those rare, wise and real people somehow have the innate ability to project their true self on social networks.

4. Social networks can do good things.

Twitter has released amazing stories of humanitarian acts at Stories.Twitter.com. Take a moment to read a few of them and I think your day will suddenly become a bit brighter.

5. It can be freeing. 

When most work centers around marketing one’s business through social networks (and no, I am not an affiliate marketer), third party solutions reward advance planning. You can now schedule Tweets while you are on vacation, utilize hashtags to gather information, follow hashtags during talks instead of taking notes, and I could go on forever. So many benefits to this amazing new means of communication. Seth Godin famously said, if he were to die, the world would not know for over a year.

Hashtags and little blue birds permeate our news agencies, our entertainment options and yes, even our lives. Looking back five years, I would have never dreamed that this aggregation of 140 characters would change the world as it has.

Like the Twitter business model, it magnifies the best and worst of humanity. It’s also good for an occasional laugh. As I watched the BCS Championship debacle, it soon became evident the real entertainment was on Twitter…consider this Tweet that caused me quite a chuckle, “@FalconsBar_CHI: Y’all hear that clickety-clack nationwide? It’s the furious and futile manipulation of rosary beads…#Bama #BCS #Irish

If you like this post, retweet it for God’s sake.

4 Responses to “Observations On My 5 Year Anniversary on Twitter—The Best and the Worst of Times”

  1. I’ll always remember when Twitter clicked for me. It’s become more than a social network. it is the plumbing of the internet

  2. Ha! So true. It just occurred to me you have used a very nice double entendre for Twitter. Fits nicely with my post. Thanks, Vince.

  3. Great post Randy. I really appreciate your transparency.

Created by Randy Elrod

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