Why I’m no longer Twittering

These comments apply only to my own situation. For you, Twitter may be wonderful.

Some of you have already figured out that I’m sort of an introvert, with a wide circle of friends and acquaintances but not too many that I strive to keep up with on a minute-by-minute (or week-by-week) basis. That I enjoy getting together with people at ALA (and occasionally other conferences) but don’t go to great pains to make that happen–and am perfectly comfortable dining by myself.

I’m clearly not the world’s greatest social-network participant, by personality or preference. I probably still have an Orkut account and haven’t been back in more than a year. I probably have a Second Life avatar and have no idea what my name or password are. I dropped out of Ning (Library 2.0 and library bloggers) because it just didn’t work for me–I wasn’t able or willing to spend the time there, and its slowness and confused interface didn’t help a lot.

Or at least I think I dropped out of Ning. I haven’t been back to check; for all I know, I may still have a page there. More about that in a bit.

Twitter? In general, I can’t imagine why anyone would care what I’m doing at any given time. But…well, the use of Twitter to get together during a conference seemed at least plausible. And, breaking with my long tradition of traveling entirely without technology, I’d picked up a cheap text-oriented cell phone (with what may be the world’s smallest QWERTY keyboard) on a Virgin Mobile pay-as-you-go basis, with a $10/1,000 text message package…if only so I could contact people I was talking to about future contract or job possibilities. So I thought I’d sign up for Twitter just to see if it would be helpful during ALA. And, after using it (Web-based) a few days prior, cut back “friends” (I’m getting to hate that overused word for people I’ve never met and never really talked to, but who feel some vague connection) to those who I thought would be at ALA.

I didn’t keep the phone on all the time–I just can’t deal with that level of connectedness–but I made a point of checking it at least every hour or two, and did send out Twitters when I was going to be in one place for a while.

My conclusion? For me, for this equipment and service plan, for this type of conference, it’s a flat-out failure. Here’s why:

  • One or two of the dozen “friends” was, shall we say, Twitter-happy, with what seemed like an endless flood of little messages. I’m seeing that elsewhere; in one case, where a liblogger is having twitters posted as blog posts, I’m about ready to unsubscribe.
  • I don’t know whether it’s Twitter, Virgin Mobile, or the way I was using it, but I got messages in big clumps, sometimes a day or more after they’d been sent. For a while, it appeared that I wouldn’t get any messages until I sent one; I’m still not sure what was actually happening. In any case, this made the tool useless as a “gathering” system: Knowing where someone was yesterday is not real helpful.
  • Maybe it’s different at a small or very specialized conference, but there just weren’t any instances in which my “friends” and I had any reason to meet up that Twitter helped with. A lot of that may be because I don’t have that circle of people I want to get together with as often as possible.

The cell phone itself proved useful primarily because of my little 36-hour travel problem (which, after reading Michael Golrick’s ordeal, I realize was only a little problem): It was nice to be able to keep my wife informed without coping with a cell phone, and I even called the airline once or twice to help things along. Naturally, the phone started losing charge halfway through the adventure…

So I came back and immediately set my Twitter account to “web only.” Recharged the phone. Didn’t use it on Thursday. Canceled our Cingular account (which we’d already planned to do). When my wife wanted minimal instructions on the Kyocera/Virgin Mobile phone (we now have two sick cats instead of one, and we’re still not sure what’s going on with the younger one), as soon as I turned it on I started getting a flood of Twitter messages…even though I’d cleared it after resetting the account. I think all the messages were from late Tuesday and the first half of Wednesday; I’m not sure, since I was just deleting them. (For some reason, the phone’s “erase all messages” feature doesn’t actually do anything. I think they’re taking lessons from the social software people.)

Again: for you it may be brilliant. For me it’s the wrong medium, either on the web or on the go–and the last thing I want is various hunks of text that aren’t even real messages from real people!

So here’s the coda, at least for now: I logged on to Twitter, said I wanted to erase my account, went through the “Are you sure?” step, clicked on the appropriate button…

and was taken back to my home page.

Did the process again. Signed out. Was able to sign back in and there’s the same#*!@% home page again.

Sent a help message, basically saying “Is there any way to actually leave Twitter?” We’ll see what response I get.

And this morning, checking email, there’s another new “friend” on Twitter–friending an account that should not even be there.

This seems to be typical of (some) social software applications, and certainly helps them claim very large usage numbers. It’s the Hotel California syndrome–you can check out any time you like, but you can never really leave. I think it stinks; I’m tempted to sue a five-letter word beginning with “f” and ending with “d,” but I won’t for the moment.

If you’re a Twitterer who doesn’t read this blog and you’ve “friended” or “followed” me–well, here’s why you’re not getting any reciprocity. I’m not really there and don’t intend to return. Don’t be insulted. (In any case, why on earth would you be friending me on Twitter if you don’t read my blog?)

If you’re one who does want to follow me both places, I won’t be there; I will be here. (Assuming sick cats, job issues, etc. don’t completely take over my life, which isn’t an entirely safe assumption.)

This post probably makes me sound antisocial. Sorry about that. Fact is, we each have different levels of tolerance for interruption and need for connectedness. I find email, blogs, face-to-face conversations and (for now) Meebo rooms to be connecting at my level. I found Twitter to be enormously distracting and not at all useful, for me, in these circumstances.

11 Responses to “Why I’m no longer Twittering”

  1. webdoyenne Says:

    FWIW…me, too.

  2. Steve Lawson Says:

    I had the same problem when I tried to delete my Twitter account. I failed the first few times, then, when I tried a few days later, it worked, and deleted it for real.

    Of course, since then, I have re-registered. My problems with Twitter had more to do with personal/private/public boundaries. Taking a month off (or whatever it ended up being) gave me a chance to re-think what I wanted out of Twitter and also gave me a chance to miss it. When it isn’t driving me nuts, I find it a fun and useful way to keep low-key tabs on a smallish group of friends and acquaintances.

    And people who aren’t already my friends and acquaintances are welcome to listen in, but I’m not adding them to my list of friends. Anyone who gets “Twitter-happy” will get cut, no matter how well I know them.

  3. Rikhei Says:

    Walt, I hope your cats are both well soon.

  4. Daniel Cornwall Says:

    Hi Walt,

    Like Rikhei says, I hope your cats get well soon.

    And as one of the twitter folks almost certainly driving you mad with automated updates, please accept my apologies. If you had dropped me w/o leaving Twitter, I’d certainly understand.

    For Twitter itself, I’m still agnostic. I hooked it up to the group gov’t info blog I contribute to and to my Google Shared items because I really like sharing stuff with people even when I don’t have time to blog.

    And there are a few people who are doing the TMI on personal stuff, but I also picked up a new contributor to a new project I’ve started. So I don’t know.

    Can’t say that I’ll definitely be using Twitter or similar services six months from and can’t say that I won’t be.

    And as usual, you’re right about saying YMMV. That’s how I feel about MySpace. It works for some librarians, but not for me which is why I cancelled my account there yesterday. Until Twitter, it’s not:

    “the Hotel California syndrome–you can check out any time you like, but you can never really leave.”

  5. walt Says:

    Steve, at this point I think it’s up to Twitter tech support to close the account. I shouldn’t have to try repeatedly…

    Rikhei, Daniel: The elder cat isn’t going to get well–it’s just a question of whether it’s a few months or a year or more. Actually, he’s pretty stable at the moment as long as we give him six medications a day (altho’ that pretty much limits vacations…) Dickens, at 18, we’re more or less prepared to see pass away at some point.

    The younger cat, Sam, the one we’re absolutely not prepared to see go (he’s only 7 or 8), seems to be doing some better today. If he’d eat more (and pass more), we’d be greatly relieved. But today he has been sneaking in and eating a bit at a time, where yesterday he was refusing any food. (Actually, he’s even back to eating his dry food.) And he’s being more “Samlike” (which is a very good thing–he’s a very sweet if also intelligent and utterly disobedient cat). So we shall see…basically, if he starts using the box for both functions, he’s probably recovering. I’m hopeful.

    Daniel: I’d “unfriended” you before ALA because of the blog link, so that wasn’t a problem. The problem was actually with people who were at ALA–and, really, with me (and the equipment).

    Figuring out our own comfort levels for connectedness and interruptability is a tricky process. It was definitely worthwhile for me to try this. It just isn’t worthwhile–for now–to stay. As with Steve’s experience, that could change.

  6. Meg Kribble Says:

    Sounds like a perfectly fair assessment to me, Walt. Particularly disappointed to hear about the delayed messages at ALA. How inconvenient!

    I’m still using Twitter, but not by any means addicted. I’m lowering my expectations for using it at AALL next month–and in any case, I don’t think I have more than a handful of law librarian Twitter friends, not all of whom are attending.

    “why on earth would you be friending me on Twitter if you don’t read my blog?”

    I’ve gotten several of these that seem to be from people looking for publicity, who are hoping you’ll automatically friend them back to be exposed to their shameless (self) promotion. One I found particularly annoying was a breast cancer fundraising/awareness group. It was very corporate, and while I support the goal of raising money for cancer research, all this did–the mere concept, since I didn’t friend it–was annoy me.

  7. Daniel Cornwall Says:

    Meg,

    What I’ve noticed recently is getting friended by twitters in totally different languages that appear to be commercial messages. At least that’s what my weak command of Spanish and even weaker command of German is telling me.

    As far as total shameless self-promotion, I seem to get more of that at Ning where people I don’t know who are NOT affiliated with Library 2.0 try to “friend” me for no discernable reason.

  8. Elizabeth McKenty Says:

    Walt:

    I’m very sorry to hear about your cats. I’m hoping that no mention today means Sam continues to improve.

    I was quite relieved to read your assessment of Twitter. I put one toe in the water and just didn’t get it. I continued to see little use for it even after attending a presentation where a whole gang of people were avidly twittering. I worried that I have been getting a little too in touch with my inner curmudgeon. So your trial (and trials) was very reassuring. I am perfectly happy for some to love Twitter. I will stay content and connected other ways.

    I’m very sorry I didn’t get to see you at ALA. I would have liked to say hello. I was there, but a rotten stomach flu meant I only went to a few sessions, and no social events. I doubt I will go to Philly in January. My ten years of Philly Januarys says “you’ve got to be kidding.” After this year, I am not sure I will do Annual again. I am hoping to put more effort into my writing, and reading! Fortunately, I know some really good people and places to turn to for nice, crunchy thoughts.

  9. walt Says:

    Thanks for the comments. Re Sam: His spirit is fine, his personality is pretty much back to normal, and he’s doing better on eating…but things aren’t passing through, and that’s an issue.

  10. walt Says:

    For those who might visit here: My wife just sent email. Sam passed the third test–that is, he cleared his system out in the appropriate manner. I never thought I’d be so happy about droppings!

  11. Elizabeth McKenty Says:

    Hooray! My co-worker has just gone through something similar with her 18-month old daughter, who was also successful today. I’m starting to think these conversations are normal. The happiness is certainly appropriate.


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