Twitter, Am I Expecting Too Much?

I’ve been back on Twitter for about 3 weeks and have put in around 1000 tweets, which for someone who hasn’t the time to spend staring at it all day, I think is pretty good.  The problem is… I don’t know that I’m really getting a lot out of it.  I suspect that I’m probably expecting too much from what it is, which really isn’t that much.

I leapt into Twitter, followed a lot of my favorite bloggers and started watching the tweets roll in.  I was careful only to follow the people I really wanted to hear anything from, but over time, it became obvious that the majority of atheist tweeters are just posting the same pithy comments over and over and over again.  Nobody wants to have a conversation, virtually nobody responds to comments, I have a feeling that most of them have an automated tweet machine set up and they never look at it.  Once a minute, they post a quote from an atheist or a provocative statement, it gets retweeted everywhere and then it starts all over again.  In fact, I took a look at one of the most prolific and realized they have made approximately 200 posts per day over their entire history on Twitter.  That breaks down to about 8 tweets per minute or one tweet every 7.5 seconds, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  Come on.

The fact is, in all the time I’ve been on Twitter, I’ve found a couple of dozen people I consider worth following.  My followers are at least double that and more people join every day, but when I go looking at most “normal” people, that being those who are not celebrities of some caliber, it’s almost always the other way around.  They’re following 1200 people and getting followed by maybe a hundred or two.  Maybe I need to get some longevity or seriously loosen up, but I can’t imagine 1200 people I’d give a damn about hearing from.  If I see a tweet that might be somewhat interesting, I’ll pull up that person’s log of tweets to see if they are generally interesting and, most of the time, they’re not.

So I figured, maybe my couple of dozen tweet-ees just aren’t producing enough worthwhile content so I started watching a couple of hashtags.  #atheism seemed pretty sensible and, just so I’d always have something to bitch about, #AtheismPlus got thrown into the mix.  I’ve poked into a few more here and there, but for the most part, it’s the same formula as the regular people I follow: pithy comment, retweet, retweet, retweet, famous quote, link to YouTube video, retweet, retweet, retweet.

Maybe it’s just my outlook.  I treat Twitter pretty much like I treat my blog.  I post what I want.  I talk to who I want.  I’m not trying to be flashy, waving my arms around like crazy in hopes everyone and his brother follows me.  I don’t care.  It just seems so absurd that most people are fanatically obsessive about getting more followers.  I can’t tell you how much Twitter-spam I’ve gotten, people offering to get me thousands of new followers.  So what?  What good is someone following you if they’re not interested in what you say or have any interest in interacting with you?  I’ve dumped tons of people who were clearly just following me in hopes of me reciprocating so they could spam me.  No thanks.

Even debating theists really isn’t much fun there.  The 140-character limit is really a killer when trying to get across complex thoughts.  Yes, I can use one of the post-lengthening services but that seems like a lot of trouble to go through for people who haven’t got the slightest clue about reality.  Tonight I had a 2-hour debate with someone who used pretty much every cliche theist response in the book.  “Someone must have hurt you so you hate God!”  “You have to believe there is no God, prove it!”  “Faith is evidence, it’s all I need!”  It’s just absurd to go round and round with people like this who are just going to go off and talk to themselves, um, I mean pray for you.

So my question is this.  Am I doing something wrong?  Is there something I ought to be doing so I can have a richer experience, or is this all there is?  Is there some hashtag where all the cool kids hang out?  Or is this essentially still the way it was when I left Twitter a couple of years ago, a general waste of my time and energy?

22 thoughts on “Twitter, Am I Expecting Too Much?”

  1. It doesn't sound to me like you are doing anything wrong. I have found Twitter to be incredibly useful for a small number of things and a waste of time for most of the rest. I really like Twitter for breaking news stories way before the corporate media begins to cover something, and many tweets have inspired posts. It certainly isn't great for having lengthy conversations.
    My recent post Atheism Plus: Ignore It or Challenge It?

    1. To be honest, I have yet to find any news on Twitter that I couldn't have waited a few minutes to hear, certainly nothing life-changing. It just seems to me that the amount of effort that I feel I have to put into Twitter is far in excess of what I'm conceivably going to be getting out. I guess I'm just having a hard time seeing any kind of benefit from the time and effort I'm spending that I care about. Most people use it to drive traffic to their blogs, I don't care about that. A lot of people just want the ego-trip that having a lot of followers might bring. I find that pointless. Frankly, there is a lot of stuff going on, especially from the atheist side, that makes me pretty embarrassed to be associated with them. Other than reading endless atheist quotes, smartass comments and the very, very few decent conversations I've had, what's it really good for? Where is the net benefit? I'm just not seeing it.

  2. I forgot to mention that your Twitter account seems to have been suspended. Might this have something to do with "Surly" Amy? She seems to have taken issue with the name of your account.

    1. Yes, I realize that, I'm sure it has to do with either Surly Amy or Ophelia Benson. I put in a request to have it reactivated and if they do, fine, if not, then thus ends the experiment again. I have no interest whatsoever using a "service" where anyone can complain and, without any contact, without any investigation, they'll just delete your account.

          1. The Atheism+ crowd, I am assuming, complained because of the name of the account. Just complaining, I'm coming to find, is enough to get any account suspended without evaluation. Farewell Twitter.

  3. I follow ~60 people and have ~40 followers (both these numbers fluctuate). I am sort of amazed that there are 40 people out there, that I have never personally met, that are interested in anything I have to say. And there are the "followers" I have to clean up. Mostly commercial sites.
    About a year ago I thought I would sign up for twitter to see what it was all about. Instantly, and by that, I really mean instantly, I had a follower. Someone I'd never heard of. I thought at the time this person must have some sort of script to go out and auto-follow new accounts, proabably hoping that these others would follow him as well. To push up his stats?
    I've see a users that when I look at their profile, have 10's of thousands of "followers". Really? That many people are interested in what you have to say?

    1. This time, I was following about 30 people and had about 100 following me. The last time I gave Twitter a shot, I was following maybe 50 people and had 1000 following me. And yes, a lot of the followers are scripts that follow anyone new in hopes that you'll autofollow them back and see their spam. There are also tons of twitter-spammers who want to sell you followers, which I think is idiotic because, as far as I'm concerned, who wants followers who don't really want to hear what you have to say?

      If you're famous, fine. I can see having a ton of followers, but even a lot of famous people are paying for followers. It's stupid.

  4. I'm fairly new to twitter myself, and I'm not completely sure what I want out of it. Partly I want to see what it is all about. I like the idea of talking to theists on there, so I follow a lot of them, and I also follow other atheists to see who is willing to engage them. Mostly I use it when I am in a waiting room of some sort, or when my wife wants to watch something on TV that I am only mildly interested in.

    Are you expecting too much? Maybe. It's nice to think you could have a real conversation with someone on there, but the 140 character limit makes that difficult. I have enjoyed having it waiting rooms and such though. As a time waster it is not bad, although sometimes I prefer sudoku.
    My recent post A Few Quick Thoughts

    1. My problem with Twitter is that, unlike blogs or forums, I feel like I have to be constantly watching or I'm going to miss something. I wake up in the morning and there will be hundreds of missed tweets in my timeline and thousands in any hashtags I'm watching, not to mention dozens and dozens in my mentions. I used to go through it all but I started to realize that I just didn't care and started marking it all read instantly. Twitter just doesn't have any meaningful form of organization, it's not like you can reasonably go back and find something you missed, you either see it as it's tweeted or you miss it forever.

      I do agree with you though, I put a client on my tablet, just in case anyone tried to contact me, but within a week, I had turned off the alert and went back to playing solitaire. I don't really have enough free time to need yet another time waster.

      1. As a completionist at heart, I definitely understand wanting to see everything that gets posted, in fact I tried twitter a few years ago and got frustrated that I couldn't reasonably keep up and I was only following like 5-10 people. This time I definitely have decided that I am going to miss stuff, a lot of stuff. I'll see whatever people are tweeting when I happen to be looking and miss everything else. I don't need to see everything everyone posts, just snapshots. I figure if I open twitter and see something that makes me laugh or find a few interesting things to comment on it has been a good enough session.

        1. Oh, I don\’t really care if I read everything, it\’s just a matter of, with so much utter crap flying by, I keep telling myself there has to be some gem in there somewhere, something to make it worthwhile reading Twitter at all and I so rarely ever see anything like that… I just get discouraged. If I walk away for 15 minutes, I come back to 200+ tweets unread and invariably, they\’re all pointless and useless. Makes me wonder most of the time why I bothered starting my Twitter client at all.

          Which, to be perfectly honest, there doesn\’t seem to be a really great Twitter client out there. I\’ve tried a pile of them, hated TweetDeck, finally settled on Janetter but it still doesn\’t do everything I\’d like to see. What is everyone else using?

          1. I use Tweebot mainly, but I also like Tweetcaster…it allows you to go over the 140 character limit. By how much, I don't know, but I know I've used it for tweets in the 150-160 characters.

            But you're right. None of them have all the features I would like to see. Hmmm, maybe a business opportunity….

  5. Yes you're expecting too much.
    Let it flow naturally. I don't expect anyone to respond to anything i post.
    However when they do its because they have the time and are either interested in the topic or have the time for a little public conversation.

    1. I don't care if anyone responds, it just seems so chaotic. If I respond to someone, 99.9999% of the time, I get nothing in return because they're just not paying attention. It's a system that encourages tweeting continual crap, just to have some sort of output. I can't tell you how many people I see tweet "I'm going to bed, goodnight" and their output doesn't diminish one bit. Unfortunately, when the majority of my efforts are wasted as a natural consequence of the system and I get essentially nothing in return for my efforts, why bother at all? It's all just talking to yourself.

      1. I generally have people respond to me when I address them directly (they don't always answer my question, but they will usually say something). There are a few people I have followed who do what you are saying, they pump out tons of posts, I just unfollow them.
        My recent post Titus 1

        1. I very rarely get any kind of response, especially from theists, but then again, they're also likely bots who are spamming hashtags like #atheism. That's the problem, I'm not following these people, they're just spamming the hashtags. You see it whether you want to or not. If you could somehow block out all of the spam nonsense going on, you'd end up dying of boredom, there just isn't much else on Twitter.

          1. oh i see, I never look at the hashtags. I started by following a bunch of atheists, and whenever I see them arguing with a theist I will follow them, so now I follow a bunch of theists who actually answer back.

          2. To be honest, I follow no theists, I don't look at theist hashtags and I don't randomly post a bunch of crap to religious hashtags to piss them off. Lots of atheists do but I find it pointless and antagonistic. I hate it when the theists post hit-and-run crap to #atheism, I refuse to do it to them, in the same way I don't go read or post to theistic blogs or forums. Most of the atheists I see arguing with theists on Twitter are… okay, let's be honest, assholes anyhow. There isn't much intelligent discussion going on, it's just two groups of apes throwing poo at each other, certainly not something I care to emulate.

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