When you login to Twitter, at the top of the page you see the box that you’re supposed to tweet from. The box asks you a simple question: “What are you doing?”
Please, for the love of everything holy, don’t answer that question.
Making that the default question, the prompt to which you’re supposed to respond in your tweets, was a poor choice on Twitter’s part. It’s also a huge part of the reason Twitter’s benefit is so hard to comprehend for a lot of people.
“What are you doing?” I’m having dinner. I’m watching TV. I’m taking a shower. Who cares?
For some of us, and in some instances, tweeting about what you’re doing is worthwhile. If you’re Barack Obama or Oprah, for instance. For the rest of us, let’s rest assured that no one really cares what we’re having for breakfast, and spice up the things we’re sharing.
Made something awesome for breakfast? Skip the “having breakfast” tweet and share the recipe. Watching something spectacular? Don’t tweet “watching TV,” share a link or picture. It’s so easy to share interesting and relevant stuff on Twitter, and so wasteful of your time and my attention not to.
What IS Twitter For?
There are a huge number of benefits to Twitter – getting questions answered, monitoring a particular topic, instant communication, real-time search, and more – that are not addressed by the “what are you doing?” mantra.
What makes Twitter important and useful isn’t what I’m doing, but “what’s new?” Twitter is the ultimate in instant, simple, opt-in communication, and is increasingly the quickest source for breaking news, great stories, and interesting things to check out and do.
Twitter is new – it’s redefining the speed at which we can receive and digest information. We’re able to functionally follow a huge number of people, and see what’s going on in the public and private worlds of people, whether they’re your best friend or Oprah.
Cut the Noise
As a listener to all the mundane “what are you doing?” answers, Twitter puts you in a unique position. One of the consequences of Twitter, whether you think it’s a positive or negative, is that there’s almost no limit to what you can talk about. For many Twitterers, this means that the Signal to Noise ratio tends to sway in favor of the noise, with information and tweets that aren’t useful to anyone pervading the medium.
But the real beauty of Twitter is that it’s so gosh-darn simple to ignore these people. Just don’t follow them. If someone’s not adding value to your Twitter feed, don’t let them in there. It’s easy to not follow someone (easier, in fact, than following them), and it’s easy to unfollow someone you’re no longer interested in.
I propose we change Twitter’s question – maybe Twitter won’t change what the page says, but let’s change the question we answer.
Now, when you log in to Twitter, don’t tell me what you’re doing. Tell me what’s new – what’s happening to you, near you, and around you that I might want to know about.
So what’s new?