Twitter was founded in 2006 and in three short years, it has lodged itself squarely in the middle of our collective consciousness. If the medium is the message, Twitter is loud and clear even if the message is only 140 characters or less. But still I am asked the question all the time “Why? Do we need to know what others are doing all the time?” The answer is “no”. We don’t and there is no way to keep up with what everyone is doing all the time. You’ll drive yourself crazy if you try and wind up in throes of an information overload attack that will make you more jittery than drinking a pot of coffee. Twitter has filled a void though. Like other communications mediums that have come before it, the telegraph, the radio, or the phone, each one does not replace the other. We manage them and they find a place in our lives when they are needed.
Twitter is a tool for a form of communication we all do whether we realize it or not. It’s called ambiant awareness. Let me give you an example, when I lived in Denver, I lived in the suburb of Westminster and took the bus to work everyday downtown to the denverpost.com. I saw the same people on my route everyday. There was the guy who took his dog with him to work. The dog always wore a green “work” jacket. In over a year’s time, I never spoke to him, but learned that he trained seeing eye dogs and that dog he had been bringing with him “wasn’t really his cup of tea” as he told a fellow bus passenger one day. At Starbucks, I would sit and drink coffee and see the same visually impaired guy walk by day after day. I watched him cross the street at the same spot and marveled at how he could cross a busy road by himself. Overtime, I learned that he lived around the corner and that his girlfriend sometimes walked with him. On the trolley, up sixteenth street to my final destination, I would sometimes run into an old friend from high school who worked in the building next to mine. He was someone whom I had lost touch with and chatted with when I ran into him. All these experiences are a form of peripheral communication. Repeated observations, overhearing conversations or even running into someone you know serendipitously. Over time, I learned interesting things about each person. I’m sure there were many people that I missed during this time too. And that’s okay. For some reason or another, they didn’t catch my attention.
So if you are using Twitter, on a regular basis, you might find this happening to you too. Little snippets of someone’s life over and over again become woven into a story that becomes meaningful to you. Watch the conversations, follow the people that you find interesting, look for people you know and let it lead you to new places that you never even knew you wanted to go.