One of the questions I get when I tell people I twitter is “Why?” Until now I have always responded with “It’s a nice way to keep in touch” or something similar, but to be honest I’ve found myself unsatisfied with the answer. This morning it hit me. I was thinking about smalltalk and particularly about how I’ve never understood the purpose of smalltalk. I’ll participate and chat with friends about what they did last weekend, where they are going shopping next weekend, or how their Auntie Ethel’s Dachshund is doing, but I’ve never really got it. It seems like time is expended with little to no productive outcome. However, I did recognize that there was an hidden value to it in the change of attitude and restfulness most people exhibit after a period of smalltalk whose length was appropriate to their particular needs. I have friends who talk for hours a week (sometime per day) on the phone to various friends and family to “catch them up” on everything that is going on. Anyone who calls me knows that I’m not much of a phone guy, preferring either to get right to the point in the call or to simply use SMS instead. When social situations reduce to smalltalk alone, I often find my mind wandering and a feeling of restlessness sets in. However, for many people smalltalk is a crucial part of their social well-being.
Then it hit me. Twitter is smalltalk for the generation with too short of an attention span to be competent at “chatting.” It’s the same subject matter without the uncomfortable hours on the end of a phone or on the end of your Aunt Mae’s couch. I tweet about having done the laundry or having taken a walk around the block, about the fact that we’re shopping at a particular mall or enjoying beers at our local pub. It’s all very journalistic and all very mundane to pretty much anyone but me, yet it allows me the same type of release that I see in people who call someone just to “chat”. Popping online to update the world (or rather my ~200 followers) about the fact that Sunday morning I did some laundry, completed step 4 of 9 of a living room remodel, played a little Warcraft, and ripped some new CDs to iTunes is my way of chatting with those around me. It’s relaxing and I finally get it.
Disclaimer: I’m pretty slow to catch onto most things, so if you find yourself reading this and thinking “Well duh!” then well done. I award you 1 point.