On Tweeting (Instead of Writing)

Or, a lesson (re)learned.

May 03, 2018Filed under blog#rss#social media#twitter#writingMarkdown source

I ended up spending about half an hour on Twitter this morning, a fair bit of it writing out tweets in response to things I’d bumped into. This is not a thing I do often, especially anymore. (There was a time, back in the days of App.net, when I spent a lot of time conversing in a Twitter-like context.) And as I was thinking on it afterwards, I realized why I don’t often do it anymore: I come away from it dissatisfied. I’d have been far happier working on the blog post I had started before opening Twitter (for something related to that post).

Twitter is an interesting medium, but I consistently find that if I attempt to have conversations on Twitter—especially about important topics—I come away frustrated with my inability to say clearly what I mean, and concerned by the very real possibility of being misunderstood by someone who has too little of the context.

Because Twitter is like standing in the middle of the largest party on earth and shouting at the top of your lungs to the person next to you. What you’re saying might make total sense in the context of that specific conversation, and if you could explain the context would make sense to the other people in the room, and yet be open to wild and massive misinterpretation or misunderstanding. Worse, because you are shouting at the top of your lungs (not to mention limited in the weirdest way to 280-character blurbs strung together into something only vaguely resembling coherence), it’s difficult to communicate well even to the person you’re talking to.

I wrote early this year that we should all tweet less and blog more and I was reminded forcefully of that. Tweetstorms are worse than blog posts. The fact that more people are apt to interact with them is a downside, not an upside, because people are apt to interact with your least articulate, least coherent, least contextualized version of an idea, and they’re encouraged by the medium to respond to it with snappy comebacks.

I’m not quite at the point where I want to just get off of Twitter entirely—but I’m not far from it either. I have no longer any desire to converse there, and find decreasing profit in reading anything there but links to interesting essays or blog posts. I’m seriously considering using it as a write-only medium and just piping the users with the highest signal of interesting links right into my RSS feed and having done with it.