There is an excellent article, I’m So Totally, Digitally, Close To You, about ambient intimacy in the New York Times Magazine this weekend, and I’m honoured to have been able to contribute a few words via a fascinating chat with the author, Clive Thompson. (This is the second time I’ve gotten my name mentioned in the NYT can you believe! but this is the first time they’ve spelt it correctly).
Unsurprisingly, the comments to this article are scattered with the standard ‘who cares what you had for lunch’, ‘you guys are way too into yourselves’ and ‘you don’t pay enough attention to real life’ type responses. All of which, in their own way, are quite understandable and some of them (particularly the ‘you don’t pay proper attention to your real life’ can often be all too true).
I’ve been thinking quite a bit about why I think these ‘lunch’ type tweets are important. I’ve decided there are at least three reasons why I care what you had for lunch.
- I see your Tweet in my Twitter stream and I think of you. It keeps you present in my life. I like that.
- I feel like I’m more present in your life because I know more about the small details – like what you had for lunch – that I wouldn’t know if you didn’t share it with me. It makes me feel closer to you.
- I learn more about you (if I didn’t know you well before we started trading Tweets). Perhaps I learn that you’re a vegetarian, or I learn which restaurants are your favourites. I get to know you more.
Twitter means that I stay in a constant state of connectedness with you, in a constant handshake, constantly doing small talk… and this is actually incredibly valuable to me for reasons that go *way* beyond touchy feely.
Well, I am in the fortunate situation of being connected to quite a few very clever people on Twitter, and by staying in this perpetual handshake with them, it means that when I *need* something from them, I’m able to put out the question without having to do that small talk dance that we usually need to do.
You know when you need to ask for a favour? First you need to identify the right person to ask, then contact them, do some polite small talk and catching up, then finally, to the favour, which they may or may not be able to help you with.
Compare to Twitter – I have a question/problem I need solved – I put it out to my Twitter network, and – often within moments – I have answers, problems solved.
Similarly, I’ll answer questions and hopefully help solve problems for others as well.
Despite the fact that I’m listening (reading, really) what you and many others had for lunch, Twitter is still an incredibly efficient way to problem solve, it’s a remarkably rapid and rich resource. Far beyond anything I’ve experienced in the past. For example, as a freelancer, Twitter is now my IT help desk, and I’ve never had one better.
I do love the touchy feely ‘friendship’ side of Twitter – the ‘intimacy’ aspect is very valuable to me (although I do also love seeing my friends in real life whenever it is possible!), but the thing that continues to make my jaw drop with Twitter is the access that I have to distributed expertise and opinion. I use it regularly in my personal and professional life now and hope never to be without it.
Meanwhile. I’m off to have dinner. We’re having pizza tonight ;)