How do you use Twitter? When I first heard about Twitter back in 2009, I didn’t quite get it. But the organization that I was at was beginning to talk about personal learning networks and how you could use Twitter to organize one for yourself and I got really excited about the idea. Fast forward a couple of years and, like a lot of other instructional designers, I find and follow a bunch of folks from the learning and development world as well as from other industries that I think align with what I do, including web design, game design, education (k-12 and higher ed), programming, user experience, and user interface design. So I’m following almost 1000 people/entities and that nets a lot of Tweets per day. Plus there are all of the tweet chats that I’m aware of. For a while, I tried to follow the advice of experts, engage in the chats, tweet often, ask questions, jump in conversations, but it just wasn’t working for me. It was too much, too fast, and I sometimes found myself feeling anxious with the constant new Tweet notification popping up. I began to question the usefulness of Twitter for me. I even toyed with the idea of quitting. But then I realized that my whole problem was thinking about Twitter as a particular kind of tool. An engagement tool. A tool where I had to be constantly speaking. But Twitter doesn’t have to be that in order to be a valuable asset for you.
These days, I don’t find myself engaging much on Twitter. I have a schedule of Tweets that go out. I still check it several times a day, but I’m not really ON it. Mostly, I use it as a way to discover good articles to read or projects/prototypes to inspire what I do. There are also a ton of really interesting things that I want to learn (often discovered via Twitter) that I want to engage with, with leaves me with very limited time to spend scouting for Twitter conversations to jump into. Another big barrier for me is the hugeness of the platform, which makes deep conversation difficult (at least for me) mostly because your question or insight gets lost in a bunch of others. I’ve found other places that I feel much happier engaging in: smaller communities with deeper conversations. I love the Twitter for sure, but for me, it’s more of a discovery platform than an engagement or conversation platform. I’m okay with it being that kind of tool for me.