This week’s #HIST479 assignment: lurking (on Twitter).
I capitulated to the forces of Twitter roughly two years ago, and lurking has largely defined my Twitter activity since that day. I’m a pro. Sometimes I lurk so well I even convince myself that @kelseywa doesn’t exist. To date, I’ve averaged about .71 tweets per month. That number drops to approximately .17/month if you exclude replies and retweets about the official suggestion to omit the Oxford comma (I have feelings about this.) In an attempt to actually find some use in Twitter, I’ve purged the list of people I follow and added a number of cultural institutions, archives, and professional groups. #oxfordcommaforever
After a few days of actually checking Twitter, I was overwhelmed by the amount of information posted. It seems like following more than a handful of organizations and/or people means there’s no way to keep up with the announcements, conversations, and links to blog posts or articles. Tweetdeck was definitely helpful in cutting this down to a manageable amount from the accounts and topics most interesting to me, but that only seems to take me farther from the original idea of Twitter. In fact, it made me want to eliminate 90% of the people I follow so that my newsfeed reflected the condensed version I’d created elsewhere. My primary complaint is that so few tweets seem to be content intended for Twitter. The homepage reads like a heinously abbreviated RSS feed. I understand that it’s tempting for institutions to treat Twitter as a series of links back to their “real” websites due to the platform’s immense popularity, but it’s all too easy to ignore these posts in the mire of the feed. The institutions that have actually drawn my attention are those that, instead of constantly directing me elsewhere, embrace the 140 character limit and share quick thoughts on their subject.
While I think I’m stepping back from Twitter for a while, I have come to appreciate its value as an avenue for announcements and a source of interesting reads on a slow afternoon. I’m not sure that’s using the platform to its fullest potential, but it does provide an easy way to get a number of different perspectives on any given topic (#owls #publichistory #election2012 #dubstepcat…for example).