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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Twitter: Connection, New Friends, and Grammar Lessons

Before I took the plunge into Twitter, I asked, "What's the hype? Do I really need to know you're at Starbucks?" I assumed this social networking tool was for the narcissistic compelled to broadcast their every move. My pronouncements were not made out of fear, but misunderstanding. I didn't understand or appreciate the doorways Twitter opens. As I blogged about previously, I've made connections with people I never would have known about or had the opportunity to converse with in the absence of this tool. Twitter is a simple but massive thing. The possibilities are endless. You can network socially or professionally. You can reconnect or make new connections with people who can influence your future. Or just cheer you on.

Many of my friends (and loved ones) won't take the plunge. Our generation (1970's kids) lived without cell phones, the internet, or even the ability to actually record a show or movie and watch it later. What do we 40-somethings need Twitter for? When you take a peek at your children's Twitter accounts, you see references to parties, boredom, and homework. But we don't take the time to explore what it can do for us. How we can use it to further our careers, pare down the massive amounts of information coming at us from other mediums, and keep a pulse on our children's world. It's an underused tool. A secret weapon we're afraid to unsheathe. I've tried to explain this to my BFF's and my honey, but my words fall on deaf ears. I've explained that you can filter the massive amounts of information. You learn who to follow and where to look for those who can provide you with information you actually need. I love scrolling down my Twitter feed in the morning and culling articles from writers, agents, and publishers, and learning something new almost daily about pursuing my dream of getting published.

An analogy: you're in your home in the morning. The TV's on, the dishwasher's going, the news is in the background, your kids are talking to you and one another, the dogs are running from room to room, and your cell phone is going off with reminders, emails, texts, and Words With Friends alerts. But you function, and function well. Because you have an internal filter that alerts you to whether something is important and worthy of your time. It yanks your head aside and forces you to pay attention. It might be a news story playing the background. Or one of your children calling the other a name. Or the washing machine wrongly whistling in its spin cycle. But you can filter out the important stuff. Twitter is the same.

I enjoy absorbing the information I receive from Twitter, and have enjoyed discovering new writers who inspire me and whose words move me. But I appreciate it for another (geeky) reason. I appreciate the content and grammatical lessons Twitter forces on its users. It requires 140 characters. Brevity. Clarity. Condensing thoughts to digestible bites. No room for pontification or gratuitous blabbering. You must say what you mean and do it concisely. As a writer, using Twitter is a daily exercise in editing--cutting out the superfluous. Because if I use Twitter to announce my lunch choices instead of wielding it as a tool in reaching those in publishing who can help me become a better writer, then I'm speaking into the wind. Nothing gets you "unfollowed" faster than minutia.

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