Monday, October 7, 2013

Day 148 - Using Twitter

I have never used Twitter. Now, I realize this “I have never...” event doesn’t top the list as the most outgoing or impressive new experience, but I have been pressed to use Twitter since the social networking surface surged to popularity several years ago. Although that pressure waned somewhat recently, the onset of my “I have never...” year brought renewed calls for me to use the service. To date, nearly every time I have discussed the “I have never...” concept with a group of people, at least one person has chimed in with a comment about Twitter. In those discussions I have constantly heard remarks like “You should get an ‘I have never...’ Twitter account!” or “You could really promote that idea on Twitter.” from someone followed by the inevitable “Oh, I would follow that...” from any random person listening on. While my “I have never...” year has not been something I’m pursuing to promote the idea, I figured using Twitter was something I should eventually learn to do. As a result, I reluctantly added the event to my “I have never...” list knowing I would stave off acting on the event until I ultimately came to a point where my “I have never...” schedule made me resort to opening a Twitter account.

Although I hadn’t planned on today being that day, a busy work schedule and travel plans that involved seven hours of driving tomorrow and a trip to the east coast on Wednesday forced me to rethink my scheduled event for this evening. When I arrived home from work tonight and looked at my still empty suitcase lying on my bedroom floor, I knew my original plans to take a boxing lesson weren’t going to work. As a result, I turned to my list of potential “I have never...” events in search of a simple, yet educational “I have never...” experience I could complete tonight. After a few minutes of reviewing the list, my eyes eventually fell on “Using Twitter” buried in the middle of the nearly 500 entries hugging the left margin of the Word document. “Oh, damn it...” I said as I quickly came to grips with the fact that using Twitter for the first time was just the type of experience I was hoping to find.

What the **** is a Twitter?!?
I paused briefly as I locked on the entry on the “I have never...” list. At over five months into my journey, I knew using Twitter for the first time probably made sense, but a strong degree of reluctance still lingered. In my mind, the whole concept of Twitter and its popularity seemed ridiculous. I simply didn’t understand why anyone would find a social media service that is restrictive in its text and picture capabilities useful. After all, in an era of visual media it seemed counterintuitive to think anyone would actively seek out a service that seems to go against those trends. I didn’t understand how Twitter fit, and as far as I was concerned it longevity would only persist as long as the fad wore on. Despite those thoughts, I was in need of a new experience, and everyone told me I would “get it” once I gave Twitter a go.

“Well, why not now?” I said to the open air, realizing today was as good a day as any. In turn, I closed the document containing my list of potential “I have never…” events, opened my Internet browser, and went to the Twitter homepage. With a little blue bird staring me in the face, I took a deep breath and clicked on the button saying “Sign up now.” In that moment I fully committed to following through with the new experience. It was just me an Twitter, and by the end of the night I would officially be a user of the service.

Over the next 30 minutes I went through the motions of activating my new account. After entering my personal information, Twitter prompted me to choose a handle that would serve as my signpost in the Twitter-sphere. As someone late to the game, the first important task of choosing my handle proved incredibly challenging. With every idea I tried already taken, Twitter provided “helpful” suggestions for handles that fell somewhere between spam email address and auto-generated temporary password. In other words, the selections were useless.

A little frustrated but no worse for wear, I ultimately landed on a handle that fit the “I have never...” concept before moving on. Surprisingly, I found myself ready to give Twitter a try, knowing that some of the described features of the tool I found on the website might actually help me communicate my “I have never...” updates to those that are interested. Unfortunately, Twitter had other plans for me in store. First, Twitter required me to follow five businesses under the guise of helping me “try out the system.” Then it did the same thing with “celebrities.” Finally, Twitter forced me to track down five people I knew and follow them, suggesting that I give the website access to my gmail account to help me find people to follow.

The first tweet...
With no options to skip any of these setup features (even after closing my browser and reopening it), I clicked around until Twitter was satisfied with my following efforts. This permitted me to access my Twitter feed for the first time, which was straightforward enough in its design and use. While I wasn’t yet sold on the whole concept of Twitter, I was happy to see using it was much easy and much less frustrating than starting an account with the social media network. After getting my feet wet with the flow of the system, I decided it was time to post my first tweet, hashtag and all, making reference to my “I have never...” journey. After crafting a brief message, I sent the tweet out to the world for anyone interested to pick up on and left it at that. With that it was finished. I officially used Twitter for the first time.

After playing around with the website a little more and adjusting some of the settings for my account, I decided my first experience with Twitter had covered just about as much ground as it probably could. Although I still didn’t like the character limits and I still didn’t understand the hype behind the social network, I could see some benefit in using Twitter to communicate across new spectrums. I’m hopeful using Twitter will help me reach more people with the “I have never...” concept and inspire them to go out and conquer their own new experiences, but time will tell if there is any real benefit to using the system as a form of broader communication.

Now I suppose I just need to get on Vine, Snapchat, Instagram, and whatever other flash-in-the-pan social networking tools are relevant to be with the times. Something tells me I won’t be following through on any of that in the near future, however...

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