It’s safe to say that the majority of the world thinks Twitter is a waste of time. Yes, Twitter is a darling of The New York Times and frequents front pages of mainstream media. But Twitter gets coverage not because the intelligentsia loves Twitter, but because the intelligentsia hates feeling like it’s falling behind.
This column is for all the people who think Twitter is stupid but wish they didn’t. Here are five ways Twitter can save your life:
Twitter lets you find people like you.
The core of every career problem is actually loneliness. You don’t change jobs because you don’t have faith in yourself. You don’t ask for more money because you don’t believe in your own value. You don’t quit because you worry about not being associated with a company. Believing in ourselves is the only thing that keeps us going, and if we stop believing in ourselves, we get stuck.
Twitter helps solve this problem because you can find people like you. That voice inside your head telling you that no one has your problem? Do a search. Every problem you can imagine is tweeted about somewhere. You can find someone talking about it. The most important reason to be on Twitter is to connect with people, so if one person is there, talking about the problem you have, then they want to talk with you about it.
The more people you find who are like you, the more you can connect with others and feel okay with who you are, and then you believe in yourself and you start to move on. Twitter is a live index of people and the weirdness we harbor, which is a gift to the world of loneliness.
Twitter solves specific problems.
You can tweet out to the world and ask for help, and someone will answer. Twitter users ask questions all the time – usually how to. "Where’s a good place to eat near the intersection of… in San Francisco?" Or "What adapter do I need to run PowerPoint from my Mac into a projector?" You will get an answer in twenty seconds.
Twitter answers questions so efficiently because there is such an incredibly wide range of top performers. There’s a directory to find anyone on Twitter, by company or title or location. Which means that whatever you want to do with your life, there is someone there who can help you. And you know they want to help, because that’s why people are on Twitter – to connect with people. It’s why so many people use social media – to help others. Social media is about networking, and networking is about helping people. This means that you have millions of people waiting to help you.
But what do you need help with? It’s much harder to ask a good question than get the answer.
Twitter gives you the ability to get the help you need to get what you want. Once you’re using Twitter you have no barrier to getting what you want in your life – except you.
Twitter helps you find what you’re good at.
Twitter is a way to let people know what you’re doing. For most of the day, what we’re doing is not as interesting as what we’re thinking. So in the end, Twitter is sort of a window into your mind: what you’re doing in your head while you’re doing something that’s not all that interesting otherwise.
If you force yourself to start tweeting, you force yourself to think about what you’re thinking. Most of us focus on what we’re doing: our to-do list, our schedule, etc. Once you focus instead on what you’re thinking, you free yourself to start connecting with people based on what you’re thinking about.
Then you will learn the best way to communicate what you’re thinking. For some people, 140 characters in Twitter is enough. For many people, Twitter is a way to link to a widely ranging reading list and for some people, Twitter will be a gateway to their longer ideas.
You’ll learn for yourself how best to present what’s in your head. Then you can be more than just a static resume, more than just a list of your contacts. You can be known for your ideas.
Twitter delivers exactly what you want to know, fast.
Twitter helps you get better information and give better information. And, in an information economy, you can’t have a more important tool than that.
Twitter is a way to curate information in a way that makes news useful to you. It used to be that The New York Times told you what was the news for that day. Later, the news of the day because so large that it would fill 10,000 newspapers every day. Or maybe every minute.
Today we cannot read all the news, but we need to sort and synthesize at a decent pace in order to stay useful and engaged in the fast-changing world around us. Twitter is a curating system. You can follow people who are good at finding the news you care about, and then you have a stream of information better than The New York Times – live, updating every minute.
You might think this is crazy, but it’s the reason why all major news organizations have a department devoted to getting the news from Twitter. That’s where news breaks first today. And the inherent crowd-sourcing nature of Twitter makes it the most efficient way to tell which news people care about most.
Twitter makes you brave.
Maybe you think all this is stupid and misguided. But let me tell you something: I am not an early adapter. I resist new technology until I think it’s proven. I hate learning new contraptions, and I don’t even know how to program my expensive-because-it’s-programmable coffee maker. Sometimes I can’t even understand what’s going on in my own social network, Brazen Careerist.
But even with my technoskepticism, I know that you have to try Twitter. Because bravery begets bravery, and trying new things keeps you fresh and interesting, even if you are trying new things that you don’t believe you really need to try. It’s why I went to the rodeo, it’s why I worked on that chicken farm, it’s why I read Car and Driver magazine when I’m getting a manicure. You have to force yourself out of your comfort zone if you want to grow.