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Twitter: A Downpour of Information But the Sun Always Shines

[modified 9/12/08,6:30 am]

Like some of my lawyer buddies on Twitter, I’ve noticed that I’ve had an increase in followers ever since JD Supra published this list of lawyers on Twitter.  While I’m flattered to have you all as new friends, don’t expect my tweets to give all that much insight on what I’m (or anyone else on Twitter, for that matter) really like because as I like to say, on Twitter, the sun always shines.

Of all the social networking tools, solo lawyers remain most divided about Twitter.  Some, like my pals Susan Cartier Liebel or Grant Griffiths or Kevin O’Keefe are raving fans, others like Chuck Newton or Rick Georges regard it as a time sink.   Texas Appellate Law blogger Todd Smith seems ambivalent about the value of “live-tweeting” but willing to keep at it.  As for me, well, I’m on the fence.

Why haven’t I fully embraced Twitter?  Well, first, don’t get me wrong – I do see lots of value in Twitter, most specifically as an informational tool as Grant Griffiths points out in this post.  In some ways, Twitter is like a giant, human RSS feed, except that links to interesting posts are generated not by a computerized syndication but are handpicked by the folks whom you choose to follow.  And the informality makes it easy to send a quick message to someone to test the waters on whether you’d like to get to know them better.

But there’s also an odd voyeuristic quality to Twitter.  Some like Rick Georges worry that that participating in Twitter means reading endless threads about people eating a peanut butter sandwich or going out for a run –  but to my mind, those are the posts that make Twitter most enjoyable because they reveal the day-to-day, behind the curtain view of what a person is really like.   However, many of those whom I read are ever so conscious of that everyone else reading – and as a result, they’re much selective about what they reveal.

So in my universe on Twitter, everyone “just closed a big deal” or “had a great day” or “revels in the generosity of the universe.”  People rarely “had huge argument w/husband” or “lost a fab prospect” or “burned dinner again” or “went crazy looking at clothing all over floor.” (that’s been my day today but you won’t see it in my Tweets).  Instead, you’ll find a happy buzzing hive, brimming with boasts and accomplishments and strategically leaked information that conveys the impression we want people to see.   Before I send a tweet, I often wonder,  do 200 people really need to know how wonderfully my day is going or how many successes I’m racking up?  Or am I just just  putting that information out there to make people think that I’m great?

Don’t get me wrong —  there’s one side of me that doesn’t  mind the sunny, smiley side of Twitter.   After all, don’t we all strive to present ourselves in the best possible light when we meet other people?  I’d certainly rather hang around with, or be one of a group of positive, proactive people than surround myself with naysayers, or worse, become one.

I suppose what bothers me is when Twitter is glorified as some kind of amazing, magical tool for building relationships and getting inside someone’s head, when in reality, it’s just another way to filter for information to create a persona that’s appealing but not necessarily an accurate depiction of our true selves.

Does that mean you shouldn’t use Twitter?  Not at all.  In fact, I hope that my post piques your interest enough that you’ll use it even more.  Experiment with Twitter and keep an open mind because you may find that it works for you.  And for what it’s worth,  I’ll certainly keep hanging around, getting my daily dose of handpicked links to interesting posts, and revelling in an escape to a frenetically paced, super charged world, where the sun always shines, and the men and women  are productive, accomplished, fascinating, cheery and above all,  above average.