Thanks to Tweetdeck, I dream in columns. I think in 140 characters or less. I can’t remember what my friends’ voices sound like. I remember birthdays thanks to Facebook (and I save big $$ on cards!). I get texts from my kids asking if we’re out of milk -> from the kitchen -> to my office upstairs.
I love Twitter. Dig Facebook. Adore email. My iPhone is a prosthetic. But I think all this may be making me a little insensitive. Curt. Brusque. Impatient when a story, told live and in person, involves paragraphs.
Twitter #chats got me thinking about how we are adapting to online communication. Rapid fire insights at breakneck speed. To contribute, you have to think fast and act immediately. If you don’t respond briskly, the hour is over and you’re left sharing your nuggets with crickets. You’re rendered irrelevant. I don’t think at my best that way. I’m not sure who does … Gretzky? Earnhardt Jr.? Federer? Tail gunners?
To be more specific, an exchange in a recent #chat grabbed me. A tweet was shared suggesting that the #conversation was not really meaningful but was simply a collection of adages. (Of course, the intention was not to be disparaging.) It got me thinking that #chats aren’t conversations.
By definition, ‘chat’ is informal, unstructured, and casual.
#chats are not continuous streams of collective consciousness. My visual is a large party with little groups scattered about the room, discoursing on a general topic. No one is holding court; everyone has a chance to chime in. Those groups break up and people move into other exchanges that capture their interest. (My actual visual? A 16th century waltz … elegant people drifting effortlessly around a ballroom. Hey, I’m a romantic.)
I can attach a few @names to my response but, really, I am responding only to one person’s thought. Folks following the thread can jump in at any time (which is a fabulous thing about #chats. They have none of the inhibitions of a regular Twitter feed where, as a polite person, you would be loathe to intrude).
And, Whoa Nelly!
#chats can be intimidating. Especially when you’re new to one. All these clever tweets flying past and you’re trying to follow them plus add to the brilliance? For those as shy as I, it can be scary to dive right in. I’m definitely no tail gunner.
Retweeting is a great way to get involved; it’s like nodding to the person or saying “Yeah, that’s what I think, too” (just as you might do in real life). If, like me, you can fire just enough synapses to bestow a single articulate tweet, you’re involved. Lurking (which is a creepy euphemism for just chilling and watching the action) can be a boon. Watch the stream as it screams past, look for relevant tweets and consider following the people who posted them. You’re expanding your community, making connections, and garnering some wisdom. (I’m lurking in a #chat as I write this ~ and it’s brilliant.)
Cons? Follow too many at once and you’re throttled! 😉 Psychologically, they can be overwhelming and you may leave feeling as though you didn’t contribute. But if you attended, you contributed. You’ll take what you’ve learned, think about it, use it, and share it with your peeps. You’re spreading #chatlove!
Ultimately, real connections happen one-on-one. A fantastic way to get to that ‘one-on-one’ is through a Twitter #chat. It’s only the first time once. As you re-visit, you’ll become comfortable pitching in and know that everyone is there to help each other.
Lurk, listen, learn, and leverage. (Bonus? You can do it in your pajamas!)
My favourite #chats are #BlogChat, #LeadershipChat, #SpeakChat, #ADadsPOV, and I’m discovering more favourites every day. Here is a list of chats where you might find yours.
What are your favourite #chats? (And if you haven’t any yet – where will you #chat?)