I think I am starting to feel the Twitter love.
For those of you who do not know what Twitter is, here is a post 'Getting my head around Twitter' that explains what it is and here are a few thoughts about how I see Twitter working for midwives.
I have lurking on Twitter for a few months now, but didn't really find it of any value until recently. I thought it was useful to have a Twitter presence in the same way that I have in Facebook - available to anyone that uses that media, but I do not participate - I tried to post an 'informative' message once a day. But other than that, I didn't engage with Twitter.
Twitter has been described by Nina Simon as being at a cocktail party, where people meet and spontaneously and synchronously interact. The snag with going to parties is that sometimes you do not know anyone, or you are not part of the 'in' crowd which makes you feel very uncomfortable. This has been discussed in length by people such as Vicki Davis in relation to blogging and social networking.
Whilst I did not feel excluded because people like Sue Waters introduced me around, I have felt like I have been on the edges of the party. The parties I have been going to are those of educators who are interested in web 2.0 where I feel I have little to contribute because I am at the stage of of learning about web 2.0. There does not appear to be a midwifery twitter party. If there was, I am sure I would feel I have more to contribute because midwifery is my primary field of expertise and knowledge.
Rules to using Twitter
The main reason for this lurking was that I didn't want to open my mouth and offend anyone, or waste people's time with trivialities. I needed to find out what the Twitter 'rules' were. Martin Weller opened a discussion about Twitter etiquette which was related to the ins and outs of following people on Twitter, but the sense I got from the comments to this post was that there are no rules to using Twitter - you do what suits you and your learning needs. Nevertheless, I try to minimize my personal and social comments and keep my messages to professional topics.
At the same time, I am loving the personal glimpses into people's lives that Twitter is giving me that I would not see in other mediums like blogs. For example, I laughed when Howard Rheingold (the midwifery equivalent of Ina May Gaskin) tweeted that he'd nearly choked to death on a bite of a banana. Now I know that is not a laughing matter, but it is the equivalent of hearing from 'The Queen' about her shopping trip to Tesco - how cool is that?!
Stage of Twitter cycle
So what stage am I in the Twitter cycle? Well, it was a couple of weekends ago that I started to move from the 'I still don't get it' stage to the 'Wow, just found a great link from Vicki' stage - check out CogDog's wiki for more information about the Twitter Cycle.
What happened was I spent the whole weekend interacting with people in a very concentrated way ie I put my party frock on and partied on down. One thing led to another as it often does at parties, and I ended up in several live seminars and meetings, and even got as far as Second Life listening to Leigh Blackall talk about his latest Second Life teaching/learning project.
As a result I have seen an increase in the visits to this blog and my Twitter network has grown. Whilst this has not led to offers of 'all expenses paid' speaking tours or such like, I do know that there is a support/learning network available to me that wasn't there before I joined Twitter.
A passionate affair?
Now I have started to feel the Twitter love, is it likely to blossom into a passionate affair?
No, I do not think so. Like Michele Martin I see the advantages of being able to connect with people and get instant responses. I love the spontaneity of Twitter but I rarely use it to follow asynchronous links ie I do not use it to follow blog posts - I prefer to use Google Reader so that I can read blogs in my own time. I am mainly using Twitter for synchronous activities such as giving and receiving feedback and advice, and spontaneously attending online events. And of course, how much I get involved with depends on my other time commitments.
But I do agree with Darren Draper that you get out of Twitter what you put into it but then...doesn't that apply to everything you do?
How are you using Twitter? What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages?