“I tried to picture clusters of information as they moved through the computer. What did they look like? Ships? Motorcycles? Were the circuits like freeways? I kept dreaming of a world I thought I’d never see. And then one day, I got in.”
– Tron: Legacy
We’ve heard a lot about what you’re doing wrong over the last year. Everyone knows that Twitter has a problem attracting everyday users, that the value proposition is not (and has never been) clear, and that the setup and fine curation of a Twitter feed is more trouble than it’s worth for most people. These things are pretty obvious, and I think you have taken some great steps to address them.
But I want to take a little different tack here by telling my own story as a true power user of Twitter, and as someone who’s life has been changed for the better because of it. I want to dig into the essence of why Twitter has been such a profoundly formative & positive influence for an extreme case like me. Maybe I can shed some light on a universal nugget that lies at the heart of Twitter.
I’m a bit weird. I work in technology, but you also might say that’s where I play. The things that I think about during the day are the things I think about at night when I’m off the clock. Even in a booming industry like tech with so much optimism, it can be hard to find people as crazy obssesed as I am, who are perfectly willing to argue about native apps vs. HTML5 for an hour at the bar. It can be hard to find kindred spirits for me, to find other people who are so interested in it all. I found some friends like this in college, but that was really a function of where I was at that time. What Twitter has done for me is help me find my tribe, and find them all around the world.
The people that I’ve met on Twitter have — directly or indirectly — taught me more in the past 2 years than I learned at high school and college combined. I get to go back and forth with scientists, entrepreneurs, brilliant designers and programmers, spiritual seekers and politics junkies, and just all around fellow geeks. My tribe evolved organically, one @reply argument here, one retweet there. I’ve met some lifetime friends on Twitter, some of whom I might work for, start a project with, or go to Mars with. And I know I wouldn’t have met them otherwise.
When I open my Twitter app out of habit, there’s an element dopamine seeking kicking in because I’m addicted to my phone just like everyone else. But what I’m really doing when I open Twitter is reaching out and touching pure information as it flows throughout our global consciousness. Our interest graphs cross pollenate with each other, and people go head to head in an open arena of expression. Sometimes it’s not pretty. But out of that chaos comes something very special. You can see ideas rise and fall on Twitter. And despite all the bickering, people’s minds are changed and hearts are softened everyday there.
Thinking about it as just a place to share and discover content, to follow live events, or have a second-screen experience for TV only gives you part of the picture. Twitter allows people to love the things they love even more by experiencing them together. It’s a place for passion. It’s a place where interests and ideas are the centerpiece, but where people are the soul, and as the stewards of it I hope you don’t forget that.
I grew up on AIM and Facebook, but I found myself on Twitter. I came to it at a point in my life when I was checking out different jobs and cities, trying to figure out just who I was & where the other weird people were. And it eventually dawned on me that they are everywhere. That’s why Twitter is so important to me.
Don’t fuck it up.