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Posted by on Mar 20, 2011 in Writing | 0 comments

Taming the Twitter Tsunami

I’ve been using Twitter for about 3 weeks now and have already developed a love-hate relationship with it.

I love it because of the people I’ve selected to follow. I’m suddenly immersed in an exciting world of folks who are doing unimaginably cool things in science, health, and social activism. Through them I’ve discovered blogs I never knew existed. I’ve read articles about subjects I didn’t even know people were thinking about. I’ve discovered authors, bloggers, activists, and journalists I had never heard of three weeks ago.

Not only that, but now I have the inside scoop on who’s talking to whom – I had no idea that the author of this book was talking to the scientist behind this study about this topic. Wow!

Twitter brings an informality to the table that makes you feel like you know people who were formerly unreachable. It’s as if you’re chatting with famous authors or renowned scientists over a cup of coffee, everyone on a first name basis exchanging witty banter, ideas, and articles.  It’s a “Hey look! They’re human!” revelation.

[I admit, I was kind of excited to have my 4th ever tweet retweeted by Margaret Atwood (ooooh!) until I realized (after about a week) that she retweets everyone. (When the does the woman have time to write?) But at least my tweet wasn’t preceded by a “@margaretatwood plz retweet..”  like most of the others. So hey, maybe I’m still special. ]

So what’s to hate?

Well, Twitter, like any other social media, is highly addictive. Looking down at my status bar right now, I see I have 6 unread Tweets.. and it’s been about 3 minutes since I looked at it last.  It’s worse than email because the flow never stops.

And that leads to it being a huge (and distracting) time suck.

I know if I go look at those tweets, at least 3 or 4 of them will have links to stories or articles that I’m interested in actually reading. And at least one of those will be worth retweeting (a 10 second task if I don’t add my comments, more like a minute if I do) or worse, it’ll be something I want to forward to someone via email, which means composing a note. And then that will lead to an email discussion about the topic. And then, before the day is over, at least one or two articles will be saved to my desktop as something I might want to blog or write about.

It’s like drinking from a firehose. After about 30 minutes of catching up on tweets and clicking links and reading articles (all of which are fascinating because that’s the kind of people I follow), my mind is exhausted. I can’t even think anymore. And I can’t write because there is so much out there to write about, I don’t know where to begin. Here’s a great story about elephants. Here’s a more timely one on radiation. Here’s something interesting on primate genetics. Oh look over here… a new report on women’s health… But wait, I should say something about Japan .. or Libya .. or Bahrain or .. ugh.

And I only follow 50 people right now. How do people do it when they follow hundreds or even thousands? The Twitter feed must be a Twitter Tsunami.

So I’m drawing the line at 50.  From today on, every time I add someone, somebody else is going to get axed. This will mean actually taking the time to assess how much I care about what the person has to say in Twitter. And it’ll mean not blindly following someone just because they are following me (which I understand is an implied norm, so this could reduce my own following. Oh well.)  And hopefully it won’t mean cutting people who I actually know and like.

We’ll see. This is just a test.

Join the conversation .. or start one!

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