Like most people, I’m up to my eyeballs in social networking — Facebook, MySpace (for about two weeks), Digg.com, Reddit.com, StumbleUpon.com, yadda yadda — and I don’t see the need to make my days more complex by adding new web habits that are being sold on their simplicity. To truly simplify, I’d visit fewer e-mail accounts/websites in a day.
But in the interest of this column, and my own insecure need to try to feel like I’m keeping up with the times, I signed on to Twitter last week.
Twitter is big, with almost a million members in about three months, and it’s incredibly simple to use. You know that “What are you doing now?” space on Facebook? It’s like that, only you’re supposed to update it several times a day, with a maximum of 140 characters, to let your friends know exactly what you’re doing. This is supposed to enhance social networking by A) letting you find common ground with your friends and associates (“I had no idea you were into macramé”), and B) making the things you do more social (“I’m also jogging after work — let’s jog together”).
You can enter Twitter updates using cell phones, PDAs, laptops, desktops, and all kinds of other devices, which is also why Twitter has become popular for businesses — you can use it to create an instant messaging system for your workplace, letting people know about meetings, or for office administrators to know where their employees are and what they’re doing — “He’s at lunch/on a sales call/working on the Linskey file/in Shanghai/weeping quietly in a bathroom stall.”
You get to pick exactly who you want to Twitter with — unlike Facebook.com where you may not be in regular contact with everybody on your list, or keep names like trophies.
Signing up was easy, although like anything it obviously paid to be in the first group to register because all of my usual user names were already taken. That forced me to pick something different, a jumble of letters and numbers that I’ve already forgotten — which is okay, because I don’t know how long I’m going to be a Twitter member, and in the meantime Firefox will remember all the details for me.
Right away I hit a snag — none of the friends currently in my Hotmail address book are actually signed up to Twitter, and Twitter won’t let me check names from Facebook. So I sent out a few e-mail invites, just to test the system, but haven’t heard back from anybody yet. I’m all signed up and there’s nobody to Twit.