Updates from Tweet-land: Say it all in 140 characters…and why not?

Tweet, Tweet! Do you follow me yet?
I just passed the 500 mark in tweeting. That’s not a great number considering how some people tweet a dozen or more times every day. But I’m not into such high volume tweeting – the most I’ve done on a given day, I think, is half a dozen. So it took me several months to clock up 500.

I was a late-comer to Twitter. It was my friend David Brewer, new media activist, who persuaded me to sign up in late 2009. On his Media Helping Media website, he has been showcasing the new tools, platforms and opportunities for anyone to become a global media brand in just 100 minutes (he recently updated this quick guide, reducing the time to 60 minutes).

Since then, I’ve been learning the ropes and having fun. What started off as a way to share weblinks to my blog posts or other interesting online content has evolved – in just a few months – into an outlet where I can express my opinions on social, political or cultural topics of current interest. And as my regular readers know, I can be quite opinionated…

I don’t normally tweet about very personal experiences or impressions. But I do share insights from my frequent travels, and meetings with interesting people and ideas.

The past few months have provided me with ample material. I became single again in January, and am now trying to reboot my personal and professional lives, even as I raise a teen-aged daughter as a single parent. Meanwhile my country of anchor, Sri Lanka, is emerging from nearly three decades of civil war, and the trauma and militarisation that went with it, and is struggling to return to normal, peaceful days again. Both processes are fraught with many challenges, and the journey is also the destination.

Slowly but surely, I’ve realised that a good deal can be expressed in 140 characters or less that each tweet allows. The mandarins of verbosity may not agree, but as Shakespeare himself noted in Hamlet, ‘brevity is the soul of wit’. As a writer, I already knew the power of concise and precise expression, and Twitter has only challenged me to be compact, punchy and imaginative.

Looking back, I realise that my tweeting has come at some cost to my blogging. It’s not the only reason, or even the main one, but I’ve been blogging less in the past few months even as I tweeted more. Blogging entails more work, whereas tweeting is really micro-blogging on the run. I can tweet in under a minute whereas an average blog post – at the level of hotlinking and illustrating I like to do – can take between 30 mins to an hour.

As I juggle bread-and-butter with my multiple passions (or the ‘jam’ on top), I’ve had less time for more reflective and leisurely blogging this year. It doesn’t mean that my blog will go the way of the blogger in this cartoon – if anything, it serves me as a caution!

Cartoon courtesy Hugh MacLeod

I started tweeting as an occasional habit, but should have known better. It took me a while to realise that it’s become a habit. And then, when I spent a few days in Beijing in late May this year, I almost developed withdrawal symptoms (Twitter is officially blocked in China). My resulting blog post, Twitterless in Beijing, has been widely linked to and discussed.

On a technical note, I’m still quite old fashioned in that I don’t post new tweets from mobile phones or other hand-held devices – all my 500+ tweets so far have been posted from the web, using my regular browser. I have no immediate plans to go for a fancy new mobile phone or ipad or similar device. I know mobile internet is the new wave, but I don’t yet have the urge to be tweeting on the run – I can hold my ideas and communicative urges until I sit down at my laptop…

But who knows what changes would occur on the road to my 1,000th tweet?

Here’s a collection of spoofs on famous quotes, as they apply to Twitter and tweeting. Some are very funny!