Confessions of a Twitterholic

It has been over a year since I wrote my first blog post My tryst with Twitter: 35 tips for beginners which captured my learning on Twitter as a beginner. I had hundred odd followers then, not many knew about my existence on Twitter and I could get away with pretty much anything. Times have changed since then. I have had my ups and downs on Twitter. I have done a few things right and I have messed up a few. I have enjoyed the spotlight that has come my way and there have been times when I have wished for obscurity.

Of course, there is no right or wrong way to be on Twitter. It is your personal space that you use the way you deem fit. It also means different things to different people. But I have noticed as one becomes more and more popular on Twitter, strange and interesting things start happening to us. When you read on, remember I am guilty of much of what I list here.

The great Twitter transmogrification: Remember the people we hated (because of their tweets) when we started out on Twitter? Yes, we end up becoming a lot like them as we spend more time here. It’s like when we start to learn driving. As we clumsily wade through the gears, accelerator and brake, other drivers would impatiently shake their fists at us. We would wish – in between trying not to confuse the accelerator with the brake pedal – to remind them about their early driving days. We would hate them with every driving atom in our body. Only to join the fist-shaking, abuse-throwing brigade once we become slightly confident behind the wheels.

Follower count is not just a number: There is something heady about the follower count. We treat it like bank balance, a ticking cash register (note the slight departure from tip #30 in my other post). We become oblivious to the fact Twitter is the only place where a rolling stone gathers moss, where the stock value only goes up. As long as you’re tweeting, chances are you will find a few extra followers every day, particularly thanks to the wonderful magic mix called SEO. We like saying it’s just a number but we secretly like it that we have more followers than many others.

The Fashionable Gap: The wider the gap between the following and follower number, the better your chances of becoming a Twitter celebrity. The reverse gap is when your following number far exceeds the follower number in which case you would be marked for jokes. The only time you are allowed to be a celebrity with no gap is when both your following and follower number exceed at least 10k. However, the elite Gap gang dismisses the non-gappers as SEO celebs.

Unfollowing matters: While on the subject of followers, you might joke all you want, you might make fun of others crying over lost followers, but guess what? It matters. It pinches even if a little, even for a flash. We treat it like a personal rejection when we get to know someone, especially someone we like, has unfollowed, but we try to get used to it as we spend more time on Twitter. Those who repeatedly criticize those who tweet about people unfollowing need to ask themselves if they have never been bothered by an unfollow. If the answer is no, then ha ha!

From the audience, on to the stage: This journey is so smooth and quick, even you don’t notice it. Once we reach a ‘critical mass’ wrt followers, we become the self-appointed 24*7 (tick one or all of the following) entertainer, crusader, news provider, journal writer, joy distributor, helpline, tech expert, current affairs channel, critic, commentator of Twitter. You are no longer in the audience watching people perform, you are on the stage. And you refuse the curtain call because the performance rarely ends.

Shortcut to fame: The road to popularity is fairly short if you are articulate and rude. Add a little humour to it and you could qualify to hire celebrity managers. We know the rude are celebrated, sexual innuendos still work, adding at least one ‘fuck’ to your tweets and posts significantly improves the chances of it getting RTed, replied to and liked (you know why I have that word here).

We think what we cringe at and bitch about: While we enjoy the rape jokes and the outrage, we don’t like to read what might have occurred to us at various points in time. It could be something as technical as ‘is there a technique to perfect butt scratching?’ to the mundane ‘What do I eat for dinner?’ to ‘how do you say ‘fuck’ in other Indian languages?’ (yes, improving my RTing chances) to the tragic ‘I am so sad that bastard left me that I could kill myself if I don’t get to shoot him’ or the profound ‘Why do I exist and what is the meaning of life?’. We easily judge those who tweet those very thoughts. Not an apt example, but still it’s like how we laugh at someone who accidentally farts loudly as if our orifice is sound-proof. We need to understand not everyone likes crafting their tweets. They just say what occurs to them. If we don’t like it, we could unfollow and move on instead of being hypocritical about it.

The Twitter gangsters: Ganging up is the best form of entertainment on Twitter and we all like indulging in it from time to time. Someone has blocked someone? Gang up. A statement seems even mildly anti-national? GU. A celebrity appears feather-brained? GU, point and laugh. A media house or a journalist sounds a little clueless? GU, make a hashtag. A journalist sounds a little too smart? GU, add to a list. Can’t speak English? Twt in sms lang? Did you copy a tweet? Not as ‘smart’ as the rest? Send friendship requests? Be prepared to get ruthlessly GU-ed for Twitter is unforgiving. The positive side, however, is that the GU-ing often leads to more followers for the one GU-ed. It’s our way of saying a small thank you for all the nonsense the other person had to put up with. So all’s well that ends well.

Digression: Talking of Twitter gangsters, since a few friends GU-ed me into mentioning them when I tweeted about planning a post on Twitter, here they are: @roshnimo @mihirfadnavis @ABVan @anantha. Please don’t follow any of them because they are all devils in different forms. All right, back to the confessions.

Straight talk is rare: We prefer to tweet general statements and hope the one it is meant for gets it, rather than tell the person directly or send a DM to the person concerned. We would even have conversations with others on Twitter right under the tweet of that person dropping subtle hints enough to let the person know it’s about him, yet cryptic enough to escape should we be confronted by that person. Extending this phenomenon, we become mildly paranoid in that we believe most of the general criticism on Twitter is about us. Like how I am sure some of those reading this post would think this is about them. Muahahahaha!

Addiction: I wish someone would get up and say ‘So I am addicted. But what is your problem again?’ Addiction comes easy. The replies, the laughter, the cheering, the friends and followers, the entertainment, the information.. it is tough not to get attached to Twitter. But then I am also addicted to my husband, my mutton biriyani, my pet (OK, I don’t have a pet) and my scotch. There is nothing called life on Twitter and life outside. I have learnt with time that these worlds collide. Twitter is real life, more so if you are not anonymous and are open to meeting people you make friends with on Twitter.

Detox or whatever: Where there is addiction, detox is but natural. Twitter can overwhelm sometimes and taking a step back often helps. Contrary to what some may believe and have indirectly pointed out, it is not always an attention-grabbing tactic. Not when the Tweeter gets enough attention on Twitter. The reasons vary. Sometimes we get busy; sometimes it’s the nastiness we see around us; the outrage and moral brigade; our own addiction and self-importance; and finally, the boredom when you want your money back from Twitter. When people take a break, grant it to them. I have seen people who themselves have dramatically threatened to quit Twitter and have had campaigns to bring them back returning amidst much fanfare and writing nasty posts on others who have gone on a detox. If I could give us all a Diwali gift, it would be a mirror.

Humility only for saying ‘I am humbled’: The more popular we get, the bigger our head grows. Our follower count should be illustrated with the image of a head. Shrugging and asking people to unfollow comes easy when one is popular. Like how Guy Kawasaki keeps repeating you could UF (Unfollow) him and ‘have a happy rest of your life’ if you don’t like his repetitive tweets as if one needs to be told that. There is not much difference between 289,715 and 289,714. Is there? Why show any sensitivity towards followers? We will spam, we will overwhelm.

Our opinion is for sale: We can fight for and against most issues and people. It all depends on who is being criticised. We would protect our friends over something and slay our ‘enemies’ over the same issue. When we criticize someone big on Twitter, chances are we do it to provoke mainly because they don’t acknowledge our existence. The Twitter crossover happens when we mysteriously find good things to say about them once they start following us back or engaging with us. Similarly, we don’t like it when we are challenged or ignored. We will mark those who do for payback time.

Things we like to forget: For each open announcement we make about unfollowing someone, there are ten people unfollowing us without making a song and dance about it. For every criticism we make about others in the open, there are ten annoying habits of us other people silently put up with. Shooting from others’ shoulders and shifting blame cannot be a long-term strategy. We are not even a speck in the Twitter universe. The one who just complimented you is also sometimes the one bitching behind your back. Halos cannot be reserved just for Twitter. Many of us are not even 1/10th as interesting as we appear on Twitter. We are grossly over rated. So are some of the programs and news that are hyped up here (I even hyped this post!). Many talk to us only because we seem impressive or some real celebrity replied to us and our follower count makes them think we must be somehow important. While we keep accusing people of being in bed with others, we rarely look at the bed we make. A PhD on Twitter cannot take us far.

The cynic in me is itching to declare there are no friends to be made or good things to be found on Twitter. But that is not true. At the end of the day, why despite everything that is wrong on Twitter, this is also the place where interesting people and perspectives are found. There’s always someone listening at the other end, someone discovers you and someone is waiting to be discovered. This is also where you keep up to date, have some great conversations and laughs and generally indulge in some mindless banter whenever you need a break. That, my friend, is why I will keep coming back to Twitter.

Surekha Pillai is an independent communications consultant. For more from her on Twitter, you can go through her really short takes. Read about her interesting journey to PR.

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12 Replies to “Confessions of a Twitterholic”

  1. An interesting post! A good note of obvious things on Twitter, which is probably an integral part of the lives of of most people using it.
    And the statement under the detox point, ‘If I could give us all a Diwali gift, it would be a mirror’ is a lovely one!

    Rather than ‘Dance as though no one is watching, tweet as though no one is following,’ one would rather have happy followers if he followed ‘Treat (tweet to) your followers like how you’d be treated’

    And a nice title, something that I was planning to use for my later blogpost…

  2. twitter is a momentarily published magazine we own edit sell and even read…most of the times…

  3. It is a well crafted post. Fact about the follower count is true and matters. I think the real twitetr celeb has to have a positive following to follower ratio. Everyone uses twitter for different purpose like u say crusader, joy distributor, tech help or just for fun and that is the charm of it all.

    Cant agree more on the scarcastic and pun intended conversations that happen. But yes, Twitter collides with our real life, no denying that.

    Why i read your post, I wrote a blog about a week ago about my twitter experience and 8 helpful tips i wanted to share, may be u should read -

  4. agreed to some points and disagreed with some, however the jealousy raised it’s head again, wishing that ‘I could write something even close’. Keep the words flowing and Inshallah some day we shall flow the scotch!

  5. Marvelous post. Yes, the sentiments are what most, if not all the tweeters do crave for. Lovely!

  6. Personally, I’d disagree to an extent on some of the points. I guess each individual would have their own take on how to use Twitter, or even what it means to them, but I’m sure we’ve all been through the above issues at some point of time or the other. That’s exactly what makes it all so compelling enough for us to be drawn to it like moths to a flame. 🙂

    Overall, very well thought out and written from the heart.

  7. @viju – couldn’t agree more. indeed, tweet like you’d like to be tweeted to.

    @sabbah in royal purple i hope, which i can wear when i visit you in kashmir 🙂 thanks for the comment.

    @Anant glad you liked the post and thanks for sharing was evocative of my early days here. agree with the points made 🙂

    @anaggh we must discuss this over that glenlivet and bowmore you promised. thank you for te genrous compliments 🙂

    @prashanth thank you!

    @chamatkaribaba once again thaaaankkkkkkk youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu. if youre the one from twitter, hope i made my gratitude clear 🙂

    @atulkarmarkar thanks atul, i agree not everybody is as mean as me 🙂

  8. An honest confession by a twitter, interesting details of how a twitter thinks and how the twitted ones. I would like to put my thoughts on this subject ‘Twitting’ or ‘blogging’ which I have expressed in poetic form; in Hindi script [hope you will be reading hindi language too] from different angels which is published at , a bloggers’ site.

    The following comment is impressive on your post by @ahem_rudra_asmi :

    “twitter is a momentarily published magazine we own edit sell and even read…most of the times…”

    TUESDAY 5 AUGUST 2008Blogging /Aatm-manthan “आत्म-मन्थन” :

    “उधार का ख़्याल”* है? *BORROWED THOUGHTS
    नगद तेरा हिसाब कर्।

    भले हो बात बे-तुकी,
    छपा दे तू ब्लाग पर्।

    समझ न पाए गर कोई,
    सवाल कर,जवाब भर्।

    न तर्क कर वितर्क कर,
    जो लिख दिया किताब कर्।

    न मिल सके क्मेन्टस तो,
    तू खुद से दस्तयाब* कर्।

    वाह! ब्लॉगर….

    बिल्लियाँ बन बैठे है कुछ तो ब्लोगेर्स आजकल,
    जब कोई चूहा दिखा करते सफाचट आजकल.

    जब कोई ‘बच्चा’* दिखा देते गटागट* आज कल ,
    टीपके, टिपियाके कुछ चढ़ते फटाफट आजकल.

    पेन को तलवार सी चमका के रक्खे हर घड़ी,
    धर्म ही को धर्म से कैसी अदावत आजकल.

    ‘फैसले ‘ पर “फ़ैसला” लिखने को कुछ बेताब है,
    तीखी होती जा रही उनकी लिखावट आजकल.

    शब्दों की खेती पे चलने कैंचियाँ तैयार है,
    अपना-अपना उस्तरा अपनी हजामत आजकल.

    धर्म हो या देश या ईमान या कि अस्मिता,
    काठ की तलवार से करते हिफाज़त आजकल.

    कम लिखो, न भी लिखो तो फर्क कुछ पड़ता नहीं,
    खाली टिपयाने से भी मिलती है शोहरत आजकल.

    ‘लेखिकाएं’ Bold होती जा रही है इन दिनों,
    लेखको में दिख रही अबतो नज़ाक़त आजकल.

    शब्द बेदम भी हो जिनकी साईटे गर आकर्षक,
    वो भी चर्चा में है जो करते सजावट आजकल.

    लिखते न गर ब्लॉग तो क्या कर रहे होते?
    टी.वी. के चेनलो पे गुज़र कर रहे होते.

    योगा कोई, कसरत तो कराटे की मदद से,
    ‘सिक्स पेक’ बना ख़ुद पे नज़र कर रहे होते.

    ‘गल’ में ‘गू’ आ गया है क्या कीजे?
    थूंक कर चाटना, सज़ा कीजे.

    ‘बल्गमी’ है सिफत बलागों की,
    थूंक कर साफ़ अब गला कीजे.
    ब्लॉगर भी ज़हर फैला रहा है!
    जो बोया है वो काटा जा रहा है.

    धरम-मज़हब का धारण नाम करके ,
    भले लोगों को क्यों भरमा रहा है.

    अदावत, दुश्मनी माज़ी की बाते,
    इसे फिर आज क्यों दोहरा रहा है.

    सहिष्णु बन भलाई है इसी में,
    क्रोधी ख़ुद को ही झुलसा रहा है.

    हिफाज़त कर वतन की ख़ैर इसमें,
    तू बन के बम, क्यों फूटा जा रहा है.

    न भगवा ही बुरा,न सब्ज़-ओ-अहमर*,
    ये रंगों में क्यों बाँटा जा रहा है.

    बड़ा अल्लाह , कहे भगवान्, कोई;
    क्यूँ इक को दो बनाया जा रहा है.
    स्वयं के लिये:- [ पत्नी का प्रहार………ब्लोगर्स होशियार!]

    लिखते-लिखते यह तुम को क्या सूझी,
    नुक्ता चीनी पे क्यों उतर आए?
    ‘हाश्मी’ तुम शिकारी शब्दों के,
    खींचा-तानी पे क्यो उतर आए?

    सर को down करो है बंद server,
    रोक लो अब कलम मेरे दिलबर,
    कितने पन्ने स्याह कर डाले….
    अब ज़रूरत है आपकी घर पर.

    चलते-फिरते ब्लॉग बनते है,
    गिरते-पड़ते ब्लॉग बनते है,
    कुछ कहो तो ब्लॉग बनते है,
    चुप रहो तो ब्लॉग बनते है।

    बन सके तो ब्लॉग लिख डालो,
    सारा अच्छा ख़राब लिख डालो,
    अपने मन की किताब लिख डालो,
    ख़ुद ही अपना हिसाब लिख डालो।

    तुम जो चूके तो कोई लिख देगा,
    ‘लेने वाला’ तो तुम को क्या देगा,
    जो छुपानी है बात कह देगा,
    जग हसाई की बात कह देगा।

    लिख नही सकते कोई बात नही,
    अब दवात-ओ-कलम की बात गई,
    दब के अक्षर उभरते है अबतो,
    है ज़माना नया है बात नई.



    कोई इसको भडास कहता है,
    कोई ‘मुखवास’ इसको कहता है,
    है किसी के लिए विचार की बात,
    कोई बकवास इसको कहता है.

    चोट दिल पर लगी ब्लॉग बना,
    खोट से मन दुखा ब्लॉग बना,
    ज्योत की लौ बढ़ी ब्लॉग बना,
    मौत की ‘आगही’ ! ब्लॉग बना.

    पहले बन-बन के मन में मिटता था,
    अब तो बनने से पहले छपता है,
    जाल [net] फैला हुआ फिजाओ में,
    जो हर-एक सोच पर झपट ता है.

    दिल के छालो का नाम भी है ब्लॉग,
    मन के जालो का नाम भी है ब्लॉग,
    उजले-काले का काम भी है ब्लॉग,
    सच पे तालो का नाम भी है ब्लॉग.
    ब्लागियात -१

    कहाँ-कहाँ पे छुपा है ब्लॉग ढूँदेंगे,
    जहाँ-जहाँ भी छपा है ब्लॉग ढूँदेंगे,
    महक की सिम्त बढेंगे गुलाब ढूँदेंगे,
    छुपे हुए कई रुस्तम जनाब ढूँदेंगे !

    किसी ने ढूँद लिया इसको अपने ही दिल में,
    किसी को तिल में मिला है किसी को महफ़िल में,
    किसी ने पहाड़ भी खोदा तो कुछ नही पाया ,
    किसी ने पा लिया बस एक छोटे से बिल में।

    किसी को जड़ में मिला है किसी को हलचल में,
    किसी ने नैन में पाया किसी ने डिम्पल में,
    किसी को जल में मिला है किसी को जंगल में ,
    किसी को युग भी लगा कोई पा गया पल में।

    -मंसूर अली हाश्मी

    Note:- If you don’t read hindI script, please don’t take the help of google translator which turns ‘MUTTON BIRYAAN’ into ‘DAAL-CHAAWAL’.


  9. I don’t agree with all of it (e.g. I never gang up because I like to evaluate things for myself) but it is a wonderful read. And I totally agree with many of the points. Thank you for this post.

    Going to follow you now. There, your count goes up by an insignificant +1. 🙂

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