what are you doing right now?

twitterHow about now? Now? Now? That’s annoying, isn’t it? But one of the more recent social networking sites asks that question over and over again. It’s called Twitter. Described by its creators as ‘micro-blogging’ – dismissed by some as ‘blogging for the lazy’ – it’s simply thousands of people answering the simple question: ‘what are you doing?’.
It lets your friends know what you’re doing via the web, instant messaging (IM) or text message. You can even paste a widget into your MySpace page or other website to constantly announce what you’re up to. It’s a bit like status updates on Facebook – something I confess I’m addicted to.
facebook updateI can continually update my Facebook friends with a one-liner on my profile that says what I’m doing or thinking – by completing the phrase ‘Jon is…’. When I first started using Facebook, I didn’t think much to status updates – all I saw was the default drop-down options of ‘at home’, ‘at work’, ‘at a party’. Oh joy when I discovered I could write anything in the box! And I do.
There is clearly an appetite for this sort of personal trivia. Twitter has been around since March last year – but last month its membership tripled. Why would anyone care? In an era of increasingly busy, anonymous, disconnected lives, it’s easy to see why people like to feel connected to an always-on network of mundane social chit-chat, small talk and gossip. I may not chat over the garden fence, at the village well, or even by the watercooler – but I can see what my entire Facebook network is up to at the click of a mouse, and respond to it.
There is a huge audience out there, twittering away, chatting about anything and everything – including what bands they’re seeing, movies they’re watching, books they’re reading, websites they’re using. People post videos, pictures, blogs, weblinks, music on their profiles. They annotate them, share them, recommend them, chat about them – tweet about them (yes, that’s a new verb).
To get a sense of the scale of this, eavesdrop on the global tweets going on at twittervision for a while – a strangely compelling mashup of Twitter and Google Maps. The global conversation has started. It’s sometimes profound and insightful, sometimes mundane and trivial. But can you afford to be left out?

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Jon Reed

Jon Reed is a content writer, author, screenwriter, lecturer, blogger - and the founder of Publishing Talk. He was previously a publisher for 10 years. Publishing Talk aims to help new and emerging authors write, publish and sell books. Advice is available via the blog and our masterclasses and membership programme. More...