Contemplating my existence

I’ve been contemplating my presence on Twitter for a while and I’m at quite an odd juncture with it as, all of a sudden, more people that I know in real life are joining.   I’ll try to be brief with my thoughts but I think this will turn into a bit of an essay.

I joined Twitter just over a year ago and when I did so my feeling was very much that Facebook had got too complicated and Twitter would represent a simpler way of keeping tabs on my real friends.

But no one else really joined and Facebook remined the de facto way to see what people were up to.

Twitter remained a minor interest at first, but over time my interest grew.  Factors that contributed to that growth of interest were:

  • Finding more people with common interests (mostly other cyclists).
  • Use of Twitter’s search functionality, which gives interesting ways of seeing what people are saying about a given topic.
  • Interesting uses, like when we had lots of snow and people started using Twitter with Hashtags (like #uksnow) and scripts and maps to do interesting things like track the snow in real time…
  • …or when GMail went down and Twitter became a great way to track what was going on with that and who it was affecting.

Heck, even my wife claimed that “Twitter is useful after all” when I discovered I was following someone who worked for the Cyclists Touring Club (CTC) and who could help put me in touch with the Swindon Cycle Champion.  Hooray!

Now, I REALLY hope that this doesn’t offend anyone that I follow (please, debate in the comments below if you think I’m missing something), but, as time went on, these useful bits and bobs started to make up only a small portion of the stuff I read on Twitter.  Heck, if I’m honest, I wouldn’t follow myself – I’m far from interesting.

Please, followees, it’s not that you’re boring – far from it, that’s why I follow – but it’s hard to keep up with you all sometimes, and it’s becoming my opinion that the value that I get from it isn’t in proportion to the time I put into it.

Now, there is a part of me that thinks that I’m doing something wrong.  Perhaps there’s a Twitter client out there that will help me get more value? I mean, I only follow about 40 people and that’s too much.  Most people seem to have HUNDREDS!  And it baffles me how you would keep up with such numbers.

I’ve been thinking about this more deeply lately too, and I think there’s another problem.  The Social Web, Web 2.0, or whatever you want to call it, is becoming too self-referential.  What do I mean by that?  Well, so much stuff that’s on the web is about… the web.  Even I’m doing it.  Right now!!

People twitter about Twitter and blog about Blogs.  I even read blogs that tell me about useful tools for making my web presence more effective, or for being more efficient at doing stuff online.  Stuff that I wouldn’t need if I wasn’t online reading all these blogs…hmmm.

Yes, sometimes I’m  is useful and I’ve discovered lots of really interesting things through social networking, but I coped without all that stuff before and I have a sense that the web actually makes work for me, and then gives me ways to cope with the extra work.

It feels like the volume of “real stuff” being talked about on the internet is decreasing.  And that’s what’s interesting to me.

Does anyone else get this sense at all?

And so to the last few days – real friends are joining.  I was going to ask “Would Twitter with real friends be different?”, but it seems, I’m about to find out.

Maybe it’s because I have a 9-5, full-time job and Twitter isn’t a great form of communication for someone like me.  Perhaps it’s more suited to self-employed, consultancy types, or people who’s job it is to work with web-based media.  I don’t know.

So, go on, convince me to stay!