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Say That Again

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
conversation, roger ebert, twitter


Twitter Is Like A Casual Conversation Among Friends Over Dinner

from the that's-it dept

I've noticed that whenever we mention Twitter on this site, we inevitably get some snarky comment from someone about how useless Twitter is. It often seems to come from someone with a "been there/done that" attitude, but it really comes off quite like the folks who used to mock mobile phones as being useless, email as being useless, the web as being useless and blogs as being useless. The fact is many, many, many people find all those things quite valuable, and these days you don't hear so many complaints about phones, email and the web being useless (you still sometimes hear people talking about blogs being useless). One of the most common put downs of Twitter is that "I don't care about someone eating a tuna sandwich for lunch." And, indeed, most people don't. But if all you follow are people whose tuna sandwich lunches you don't care about, you're not using the tool correctly.

Roger Ebert has been using Twitter quite a lot lately, and he came to it after being one of the Twitter-haters (like many people are), and he's now written eloquently about how he realized his initial thoughts on the service were wrong:
I vowed I would never become a Twit. Now I have Tweeted nearly 10,000 Tweets. I said Twitter represented the end of civilization. It now represents a part of the civilization I live in. I said it was impossible to think of great writing in terms of 140 characters. I have been humbled by a mother of three in New Delhi. I said I feared I would become addicted. I was correct.
Now, part of that is the fact that he has lost his voice, which has made it difficult for him to have good face-to-face conversations, something that he can do on Twitter. And it's that aspect of it that made him realize what a useful service it is:
I am in conversation. When you think about it, Twitter is something like a casual conversation among friends over dinner: Jokes, gossip, idle chatter, despair, philosophy, snark, outrage, news bulletins, mourning the dead, passing the time, remembering favorite lines, revealing yourself.
A bunch of people sent this story over, and initially I wasn't sure if there was anything to say about it. But those few lines above so accurately describe the value of Twitter that it seemed worthwhile to post. I know it won't convince those who still see no need for the service, or those who feel the need to immediately put it down without additional thought, but for those who have found the service to be useful, the point Ebert makes above is what makes it so valuable. For me, personally, I've found that those sorts of "conversations" have allowed me to stay much more in touch with friends and family around the world, while also making new friends and acquaintances along the way. It really is just an ongoing conversation, and in a world where conversation matters (as I believe it does now, more than ever), the tools that make conversation easier are too important to simply brush aside as useless.

Reader Comments

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  1. identicon
    Aaron Toponce, 17 Jun 2010 @ 6:20am

    Conversation and keeping in touch

    People balk at the "Web 2.0" tools like it's some sort of trend, when in reality, tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz, Friendfeed, Identi.ca and others are all about keeping in touch with those you care about.

    And of those I follow, it's not so much the broadcasting, as it is conversation. My family and friends on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere don't broadcast that they're going to the bathroom, then having a sandwich, or they just got up, and getting ready for work. Instead, they say things like how much they love their kids, why a certain employee is driving them nuts, or why they like the Celtics over the Lakers. Most of these spark comments, creating a genuine, real-time conversation.

    Conversations with people, that had these tools not existed, would not be taking place.

    For me, I'm a conversation-aholic. I'm in IRC, IM, Facebook, Twitter, Identi.ca, Buzz, Google Reader, email, RSS and a number of others. It's not about followers, as much as it is about finding those who are important to me, or those I have an interest in keeping contact with, and then getting the relevant data from their lives.

    It is indeed conversation. Sometimes too, it's arguments, political commentary, Q & A, sympathy, celebrations and so much more.

    As with anything, these can be abused, but the great thing with many of these tools, is you can stop following them, and the abuse is no longer a problem for you. You get the data that's interesting to you, and cut out all the rest of the noise.

    That's my thoughts anyway.

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