The Weekly Challenge is a column that tackles self-improvement seven days at a time.
Last week in Twitter-related happenings: Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt sets a new record (80,000 tweets per minute) after winning the Olympic men's 200m; Girls auteur Lena Dunham gets in a tweet scrap (and then apologizes) after making questionable comments about a burka; Mike Tyson receives tweeted death threats; the Mitt Romney campaign is accused of paying for fake followers; Courtney Shea joins Twitter.
Okay, so that last one isn't such a big deal, though in my own tiny universe – a universe that now includes the Twitterverse – the move felt monumental. For years I have resisted, even turned my up my beak at the world of the little blue bird, convinced that navel-gazing was not for me. (Pot/kettle/personal journalist – yeah, I see the contradiction.)
I am the kind of person who arrives late to the technological party. In the mid-'90s I resisted fads like cellphones and the Internet. I've been on Facebook for a few years, but mostly just to silently spy on pictures of people I went to high school with. I only got my first iPhone last year.
It's not that I didn't get the many positive applications of Twitter; I had followed its key role in everything from the Arab Spring to Justin Bieber. I just couldn't get used to the idea of hurling random musings into cyberspace. (Didn't I do enough of that in the real universe? And didn't the very nature of trying to be funny/clever/deep in type negate the desired result?) These were among many preconceived notions, but in the spirit of not knocking what you haven't Twyed (#lamepuns), I leaped, fingers first, into this week's challenge: to tweet or be tweeten.
I like it, I really like it
I began the week by setting a few specific goals, the first of which was to tweet several times a day. Via Twitter (assume everything I'm doing from now on is via Twitter), I asked a few social media-savvy friends the obvious question: What should I tweet about? Their answer: Whatever you like to talk about.
I happened to be thinking about how spicy pickled beans should replace boring old celery as the official garnish of Caesars, and so that's what I tweeted … with extreme trepidation. Sure, cocktail accoutrements are a perfect topic for pool-side conversation, but sharing such random thoughts on a grand cyber-stage made me feel like a lame Seinfeld wannabe. (What's the deal with Ovaltine?)
Sensing that straight-up repartee was not going to be the key to my new twidentity, I turned my focus to the sharing of things I found funny or interesting. A great Dark Knight Rises review by @LaineyGossip (tweet); how to break up with your boyfriend's mom on Facebook by @LenaDunham (tweet); five places to get lobster dinner in Toronto by @BlogTo (tweet). I also put out a bunch of challenge-related questions (What are the dos and don'ts of Twitter? Who are the best people to follow?)
As retweets and new followers trickled in, I felt a bit like the Sally Field of cyberspace: It was as if I had started the week hitting a bucket of baseballs into a batting cage and now I was playing on a team. It was fun. Addictive. The more I tweeted, the more I wanted to tweet. Once, nothing had seemed worthy of 140-character commentary; now almost anything did.
Adventures in cyber star stalking
A second goal of tweet week was to put the whole democratic medium thing to the test by attempting to interact with celebrity tweeters. I reached out to everyone from @JessicaSimpson to @MargaretAtwood to @MichelleObama in the hopes that one of these famous ladies might heed my bird calls. No such luck, though I did manage some Olympic-related back-and-forth with the CBC's coiffed prince of the airwaves @JianGomeshi. Over the course of the week I collected 23 new followers, only two of whom are related to me. (Not much compared to the Beibs' 26-million-plus, but it's a start.)
I'm not sure if I should feel pleased or defeated by the fact that I will continue on with life in the Twitterverse after my one-week tryout. On one hand I am now semi-fluent in a language that had previously eluded me. On the other, I still feel like the whole thing is a bit of a self-indulgent circle of ego-boosting and back-patting.
I move forward cautiously, silently vowing to quit cold twurky if I ever feel compelled to share what I ate for lunch.
"It's good for reading when you're standing in line at the post office. It's not as good as Facebook for an ongoing conversation."
– Mia Taylor
"I joined because I felt out of the loop. Call it FOMO [fear of missing out] if you will. I think I will follow people for now and then start tweeting. I don't feel empowered or overwhelmed. I more feel anxiety over the thought of being too boring!"
– Jeff Capel
I don't tweet much but I love it for updates and information. For example, last week my power went out, I tweeted Ottawa hydro and within minutes they told me when my estimated restoration time was."
– Mary Anderson
"Baby took his/her first steps!" "Coffee with pals at Starsucks" #winning (retching violently). No Thanks!
– One more worthless opinion
Nope … can barely get a handle on the English Language, never mind # Hash Tag this etc.
– Marcel Scouten
I've been using twitter for a couple years but it isn't about what I tweet....it's about what other people say. Subject matter experts, funny people and the like.
– Ian Lewis
A new study asserts that de-cluttering our minds is all but impossible, but this week we're going to give it our best shot. Meditate for 20 minutes every morning either by yourself or as part of a meditation group. Are you calmer? More productive? Sick of saying "Om"? Let us know how you fare on the journey to inner peace. fb.me/globelifestream