A Response to Lev Grossman's "Quitting Twitter"

by Kate Brodock on 22 March 2009

Posted in: From the Field

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This is a little delayed (I was reading an old TIME at the gym this morning), but I feel compelled to respond to Lev Grossman’s article from the 16 March issue, titled “Quitting Twitter.”

The subtitle of the piece is “It’s the social network du jour.  But what do we really get out of it, aside from interrupted?

I certainly can’t blame Lev for thinking this.  Heck, 90% of my friends always ask me “What’s the deal with Twitter?”  And maybe 30% of those still haven’t even heard of it.  So I thought I’d take a few minutes to throw my own observations out for people in this position to ponder about.

My biggest piece of advice for Lev, since he seemed to not being finding value out of people’s Tweets is to find where he value is and who’s giving it!  Search for people in your field or interested in general news, or nerd topics like technology.  Read their bios, read their first page of Tweets.  If the tweets are mostly about getting burritos with hot salsa instead of mild or how awesome it is to watch their cat playing with a tennis ball… it sounds like that might not be valuable to you.  If they’re on interesting news, observations on specific topics, or they seem to be having good conversation, that’s a great start.

Just as I could pick up a romance novel to read in bed at night, I could also pick up a book that had substance and meaning.

Awesome (and useful!) ways I’ve seen Twitter being used

  1. Early crisis warning, like what Nate Ritter is doing with CrisisWire. (@nateritter) [Note: In my opinion, the aggregation of Twitter is one of the coolest things I see happening to Twitter's future].
  2. Speaking of aggregation, how about getting updates from around the world on Inauguration Day experiences on Inauguration Report?
  3. Getting yourself out of Egyptian jail, as was the case for student James Karl Buck last April.
  4. Finding out about local and national information on industry networking events, gatherings, news, information, products… you name it… all from Twitter.  Oh!  I forgot to mention we got a paying client too!
  5. Raising a lot of money for charities or social good, as was the case with Twestival (among many, many other cases).
  6. Starting meaningful conversation, like PR professional Sarah Evans (@PRSarahevans) has done with #journchat.
  7. Helping people and families close to you using your social network, as David Armano did for his friend Daniela and her family. (@armano)

Some of my big favorites to follow for value, aside from those already mentioned? @guykawasaki, @shelisrael, @timoreilly, @knealemann,…. I’m gunna stop here, I could go on for a really, REALLY long time.

If you want to check in with the funders of Twitter?  Follow @Fredwilson at Union Square Ventures, or you can check out his blog, A VC (search for “Twitter” and you’ll get all the information you need to see why he supports it).

Lev ends by reminding us all to “just remember, the un-Twittered life is still worth living.“  Lev, thank you, really, but most of us do know that.  Some people, of course don’t.  Some people also don’t think regular old life is worth living either.  It’s all about how you use it, and how you work it into your life.

Do you have any other examples of great Twitter usage?  Anyone Lev should be following?  Any advice for him about getting the most out of Twitter?

[Sidenote: I'm currently watching an ABC News clip on this exact topic, pointing to several cases where maybe Twitter is getting out of hand.  I can't find the video at the moment, because it was literally just on, but when I went to search for the video, I came up with this nice clip about using Twitter to teach.]

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