One of the questions I get asked most about Twitter and other social media — whether from friends or from people I’m training– is, “Okay, I understand how it technically works now, but how do you handle that flood of information coming your way? It would drive me crazy to try and keep track of x number of people!”
Yes! I agree!
If I actually tried to stay on top of the 200+ people and conversations I’m following on Twitter, I would: (a) never get any work done, (b) go slightly bonkers, and thus (c) be rendered homeless quite fast. The trick is that I’m not actually paying that much attention to all those people. (Sorry, people I follow.)
The paradigm of email being our main form of digital communication for the past 10+ years (at least in the mainstream) has created this sense that every message appearing in front of our faces is significantly important enough to demand our attention. As social media expands, nothing could be further from the truth. We are presented with the opportunity to reach numbers of people that previously was technologically impossible. That doesn’t mean we have to pay attention to them all.
In the case of Twitter, I like to think of it as my personal water cooler in the break room– when I’m bored or otherwise off on an ADD jaunt, I stop by here and listen to what other people are talking about at the moment. If something interesting or funny just happened, I pop my head into the group and tell them. (“A guy wearing boxers on the outside of his pants carrying a 1984 boombox blaring Michael Jackson just danced with me on Houston St.”)
There are some decisions I’ve made about my Twitter use that have helped me to keep enjoying it as a helpful tool:
The biggest thing I like to stress to people who ask me these things is that Twitter (and other tools like it) are tools for enhancing your communication and relationships — not destroying your sanity trying to keep up with everything. You should use them how you see fit, and not be afraid to make your own rules for your relationships– just as you would offline, so can you online.