How to be a ‘twitt’: a guide for Twitter’s late adopters

Is there anything more to Twitter than a popularity contest for borderline sociopathic losers who can’t hack friendship in the real world? The answer, amazingly, is yes, but it’s just as well to admit that much of the appeal of joining the twitts (some say twitterers, but we’re going with twitts) is to amass vast numbers of followers-slash-friends whom you’ve never met and amass alleged social capital. As a twitt you could follow Sarah Brown into the hitherto secret recesses of her world. And witness her stand against Italian veal. And, like, pretend she’s your friend. Result!

On the plus side, it is incredibly easy to become a twitt: it’s free and easier to register for than, say, M&S’s flower delivery service. Twitter isn’t for the verbose: Marcel Proust could never have tweeted. You get 140 characters to say whatever you want — eg “remind me why I’m doing this again?”. These 140-character blurbs are called “tweets”.

You follow other people whose daily minutiae you might be interested in, and when they tweet, it shows up on your page. When they follow you, your tweets show up on theirs.

Why do so many bother? As the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman noted in his book Liquid Love, the sense of belonging or security that the so-called liquid modern (that’s you, twitts) creates consists in being cocooned in a web of messages — SMSs, emails, or tweets. Feeling connected makes one feel less anxious about social ostracism. In the Twitterverse, the number of your followers, like a website’s click-through rate, demonstrate online wantedness and potency. No matter if such social capital is more apparent than real.

Better yet, you can connect with celeb twitts. How lovely to follow leading twitt Stephen Fry and read, say, his 140 characters on checking into his hotel (plus his snap of the view from the window). God bless Fry and his desire to fill the blank interstices of his every moment with online yipyap about, you know, stuff: he and others (Demi, Snoop and — this is hilarious — Coldplay) thereby allow us to go cyberstalking without the risk of prosecution. Do you want to receive this intimate message from Davina McCall — “OK. I’m going to try and make myself go to sleep. night night peeps”? Maybe you do. Thanks to Twitter, now you can!

Aren’t there — for the love of tweet — better reasons for Twittering? There are. It offers the comfort of strangers: in the Twitterverse everybody is — so the people I follow tell me — much kinder than they are on social networking sites such as Facebook. You can market yourself. You can organise tweetups, to meet like-minded people. If you’re creative, you can ask others to help you come up with ideas.

When all else fails, Twitter can be a source of news. The big — and trivial — news rises to the top of the Twitterverse. Michael Jackson, Gaza, Mrs Slocombe, Mumbai — all have been big in the Twitterverse this year. Not bad for a service that launched three years ago and that was never aimed at having such global clout. That said, by this time next week Twitter could be as forgotten as Second Life. Remember Second Life? Me neither. –

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