Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Hatter used to have the monopoly on “most famous tea party ever,” although I fear some political parties may have overtaken him. Or joined him. I’m not sure which.
Anyway, among the Mad Hatter’s famous tea-party riddles is, “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” Like tea parties themselves, this has an update: “Why is Twitter unlike a bookshop?”
The answer makes about as much sense as anything else in today’s speed-and-celebrity-crazed world. Twitter, for those unfamiliar, is that 140-characters-or-less never-ending “conversation” you can have with the rest of the world just by signing up. Think of a very large high school lunchroom, each table seeking to be the “cool kids” and shouting short sentences into the room. No one is listening to anyone else, just making sure they’re heard.
It’s Facebook on crack cocaine: say what YOU have to say, and don’t worry about the rest. There’s even something called a “Klout” score, calculated by how often you Tweet (send a message) and how often your Tweet is retweeted (someone else resends it). Your Klout score goes down if you answer other people’s tweets or retweet others.
In other words, the more you listen, the less Klout you have? Oh dear; perhaps Twitter is not unlike the Mad Hatter’s madcap party, or the world on the other side of the looking glass.
If ever there were a world less like a bookshop, the Twitterverse is it. In the bookshop, conversations need not be short because time lasts longer. And in a bookshop, it’s all about listening. It makes your score go up, not down; customers come back, knowing they’re not just markets you’re trying to sell to, but humans you’re trying to connect with.
Now that I’ve dissed it, let me say that I’m on Twitter because I wrote a book and got told to “go social market.” And I’ll stay on because I have actually met some fun people, and connected with some friends in the region I never see face to face. It’s like meeting in a Walmart aisle, seeing their Tweets about what’s up with their day. Plus, some Tweeters are genuine, funny, and sweet, being themselves more than pushing an agenda–or a product. Despite my initial terror, Twitter is like the rest of the world–what you make of it.
So I will be myself, and enjoy others doing the same, on Twitter. But until my dying day, I will maintain that Twitter is not like a bookshop, and be grateful for the listening calm that running mine counterweights against Tweetopia, balancing the scales of life.
Care for a cup of tea as we chat?
(Don’t forget to enter Caption Contest V; scroll down to August 14, view entries and leave yours in “comments.”)