by Catriona Mills

My Day On Twitter; Or, How I Blatantly Recycle My Own Material

Posted 26 March 2009 in by Catriona

I’m very new to Twitter: I’ve not been using it for much more than a week. And, like many people, I was driven to it by Facebook.

Not by the new Twitterised Facebook design that so many Facebook users are denigrating, but by the fact that I really enjoy writing my Facebook status update. I started worrying that I was changing my status too often, and that this wasn’t giving people a chance to comment—and the ability to comment on status updates is one of the better changes Facebook has made in the time I’ve been using it.

Twitter seemed like a useful alternative: I could minimise my rewriting of my status update and yet still indulge my desire to frequently describe what I was doing in 140 characters or fewer.

That’s what delights me about both Facebook status updates and Twitter: that severe restriction of the word limit. I’ve worked with restricted word limits before—almost everything I write has some kind of word limit. But never, ever as restricted as this.

And I love the challenge. I love the way it forces me to sharpen my syntax, to think of synonyms that are equally effective but shorter, to make my point clear while removing all the pronouns from a sentence.

Oh, I’ve seen the arguments against Twitter, but that challenge is why I’m enjoying it—like my live-blogging over the last year, it’s a form of writing like no other I’ve ever done. With live-blogging, I have to be able to write quickly but succinctly, to be accurate and descriptive but also to provide commentary, to be able to keep the shape of the plot in place, to decide immediately what can be omitted without losing the reader. With Twitter, I’m forced to think constantly about the shape of what I’m writing, to compress it to a smaller, neater form.

But what’s an argument without examples? Since I’ve been writing on Twitter more often today than usual, here are today’s tweets in chronological order, earliest first:

Wondering what the “remember me” button on Twitter log-in page does? (Except for reminding me of Futurama episode.) It’s not remembering me.

Forced by presence of giant moth in garage to climb into car through passenger side. Hand brake really inconveniently placed, in my opinion.

Then nearly hit garage door on way out, because was for some reason obsessively checking whether moth moved, even though was secure in car.

Couldn’t get parked at uni, and had to drive home frantically and try to catch a bus that would get me in for my AFS hours. Success!

But had to leave car in driveway because of running late. If anyone drives though fence, may implode like Jagoroth ship in “City of Death.”

Then sat on bus behind teenage boy who had exactly the same haircut as I do—only it may have looked better on him. Strange day.

No students have come to see me. Such odd work, this: hours of frantic marking activity followed by stretches of silence and self-doubt.

But at least I’m not pursuing either a real or metaphorical Minotaur through stretches of labyrinthine programming code beyond my ken.

Nearly sideswiped by red Mazda with “That’s so sexual!” decal. Feel presence of such a decal cannot but cheapen my tragic, untimely death.

None of this is great literature, of course. No immortal thoughts. No “Eureka!” moments. Just anecdotes about my day in 140 characters or fewer, each one a tiny, unique writing challenge.

Share your thoughts [11]

1

Drew wrote at Mar 26, 08:47 AM

and very enjoyable to read. I have made the leap to twitter, any good reason why I should?

2

Kirsty wrote at Mar 26, 11:48 AM

I like this ‘writing challenge’ approach to Twitter. It’s surprising just how much you can impart in those 140 characters.

I followed your tweets throughout the day and each one of them either made me LOL (eg the inconveniently placed hand brake) or really resonated (eg ‘stretches of silence and self-doubt).

3

Catriona wrote at Mar 26, 12:27 PM

You mean you haven’t made the leap to Twitter, Drew? I think whether or not you find Twitter useful depends on at least two things: if you have a ready-made readership in place (which you would), otherwise you might well feel you’re tweeting into the void; and whether you’re willing to make a certain commitment to generating content.

Bit like writing a blog, I suppose.

The commitment to content is more important with a blog: I think a readership is important to how much you’ll enjoy Twitter, though—a readership who generally tend to be sedentary in front of a computer for most of the day and who are responsive to your material makes a huge difference in how enjoyable it is.

And, Kirsty, I think part of the reason why I think of Twitter as a writing challenge is that you’d originally made that point—I think on a comment thread on here, but I can’t find it. You’d mentioned that you looked on it as a writing challenge, and so I went in thinking of it in those terms. And you’re right! So frustrating, sometimes—when you just want that one extra character—but so intriguing.

4

Tim wrote at Mar 27, 03:45 AM

That’d be right. Now that I’ve joined Facebook, everyone else is leaving.

5

Catriona wrote at Mar 27, 03:58 AM

Oh, I have no intention of leaving Facebook. For one thing, I have friends on there, mostly from Sydney, with whom I don’t interact through any other medium.

(Also, I didn’t stop playing Packrat when I said I would, so there’s that, too.)

Part of why I’m also using Twitter is so I can use Facebook more efficiently.

6

Tim wrote at Mar 27, 04:54 AM

Ah, I see. Exploiting functionality differentials across multiple systems to maximise efficiency.

7

Catriona wrote at Mar 27, 05:02 AM

And synergise learning. Yes.

8

Drew wrote at Mar 27, 06:18 AM

“haven’t” yes.

9

Catriona wrote at Mar 27, 06:27 AM

I thought I’d check, because if you’d come over to the Dark Side, I would follow you on Twitter and subject you to a constant stream of pithy accounts of how I got a chair stuck in my hallway.

There’s no downside!

For me.

;)

10

h wrote at Mar 27, 12:26 PM

I can see Facebook becoming increasingly passive, or “fed”. Status from Twitter, posts from blogs, eventually maybe photos from flickr or something. For people who only use Facebook, great – content. For people who already had things set up, great – no extra work.

I’d ditch facebook if not for its bizarre habit of actually keeping me connected with people, despite being otherwise crap…

11

Catriona wrote at Mar 27, 01:07 PM

Well, that’s it, H. I keep in contact through Facebook with people whom I’m not otherwise able to see. And I’m deeply fond of one Facebook-specific game (all the other games, I either can get or have found elsewhere, but Packrat is still Facebook specific.)

So I’m not giving up on it.

But I remain puzzled by why they’ve implemented this new design when, firstly, the vast majority of their users seem to deeply despise it, and, secondly, it must be obvious to the designers (as it is to us) that it makes Facebook far harder to navigate.

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