Thursday, July 09, 2009

Using Twitter to Shut Up and Learn

I tweet. I've become a tweeter.

I dipped my toe in some time back, and really, it was all an experiment. I didn't get it, which is partly why I did it. Really, what's the point in turning your life into a series of 140-character headlines?
  • "Headed to the store."
  • "At store now. Got my favorite space! Lucky lucky."
  • "Driving. Lots of cars. Wow."
  • "Back from store now. Bought some bananas. On sale! Woot!"
Woot? Really? That's what you're going with? Woot? Who says that?

But 500-something tweets later, I'm a believer. True, at its worst, Twitter can be droll and monotonous. But when it's good, it's fascinating. Forget all the stuff about building a following and self-promoting and blah blah blah yada yada. Here's what I love about Twitter:

Learning. Listening. Seeing it all from a completely different perspective. Stepping into someone else's shoes and taking in their take on the world. Twitter gives me the unprecedented ability to follow along with fascinating people who do not see the world as I do. It's broadened my understanding of the human experience, in all its many shades and flavors, and my appreciation for the beautiful mess the lot of us are.

Take Iran's recent election catastrophe, for example. When the government tried to silence all media reporting on the violence, a few brave citizens in Iran tweeted in defiance, giving the world a play-by-play of what was happening in the streets in nearly real-time. Amazing. That act alone has created in me, and I know in many others, a keen solidarity with the Iranian people that I'd never know otherwise.

That's just one example. I also follow others on Twitter who live in worlds quite apart from mine: famous actors & musicians, atheists, Buddhists, gays & lesbians, Christian leaders and folks from other ethnic communities. (Oh, and actual real-life friends. That part is cool too.) Here's a snippet of a recent stream:

The point is, I'm learning. It's fascinating stuff. And yeah, some of it ticks me off. But then, I probably tick them off too. So I say, why not be humble? Why not go first? Find some people who are not like you, who live very different lives from the one that you lead, and follow them. Challenge yourself. Stretch. Love.

Who do you follow on Twitter? Why do you follow them?

Oh, of course. If want to show me some Twitter love, just click here.


Brad Ruggles said...

Yeah, it's been amazing how much I've learned and how many cool people I've met through Twitter. Pretty powerful tool.

Michael D. Warden said...

Exactly! And connecting with you is a great example of how Twitter helps me find interesting people to learn about and from. Thanks!

Kenny said...

I follow a gazillion people on twitter. Yeah, it's a lot of noise right now. However, my strategy has been different. I use Tweetdeck on my computer to follow a small group of tweets even though I'm following the masses. The benefit of following as many people as I do is that when I start asking questions, over 2000 people have the opportunity to answer. I've gotten tech support, answers to some things I was trying to research as well as many other things. Actually, I just bought an iPhone from the dad of a twitter follower yesterday. Forget ebay. Forget tech support. Forget wikipedia. Just twitter.

Michael D. Warden said...

Kenny, you're like some kind of Twitter samurai, man!

Michelle Brown said...

I love the connections that can be made. I've even been able to translate Twitter connections to "real world" connections. Plus there's a world of opportunity to learn from people I'd never have heard of otherwise, or offer encouragement and share joys and sorrows. I love that!!

Jenifer said...

Seeing it all from a completely different perspective. Stepping into someone else's shoes and taking in their take on the world.

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