Social networks are very popular these days, and it’s easy to understand why. It’s fun to have a singular location to connect with all your friends, and maintain a small biography about yourself to fuel your delusions of grandeur. I’m not immune to the feeling.
I join all the social networks, but I do so gradually, with the knowledge that I’m never going to get what I expect out of the experience. I approach new websites with a childlike fear of the unknown, but also a small bit of childlike glee: maybe this will be the one! Maybe I’ll finally find the social network that delivers what it promises!
Thus did I join Twitter. But to truly understand my experience with Twitter, you need to understand how I got to this situation.
My first social network was MySpace, back when it was known for something other than camwhores. I didn’t come in expecting anything unusual. “MySpace”, I figured, had to be something about creating “my space”. That sounded reasonable. But when it came to discovering other people’s spaces, I started to get a little afraid. It seemed to me like 99% of MySpace didn’t want me to intrude on their space, so they chose crazy background images and bad music to scare me away. Quite rude, if I do say so myself.
So bad neighbours were the key reason that I couldn’t stand MySpace. But building my own “space” was okay in its own right, and it seemed like the basic concept of a social network could still be salvaged. Maybe if a website could come along and offer something truly unique; something other than a half-assed Geocities/LiveJournal hybrid. I dreamed on.
Eventually, Facebook started to get popular, and I heard a rumour that it was the next MySpace. Presumably this meant that it would be an improvement! I was excited to try it out and see for myself what changes had been made, but I was still wary. I didn’t want a social network to hurt me the way MySpace had hurt me. It was just too much to bear.
With fear quickening my steps, I attempted to register for Facebook. And failed to register, because the sign-up page was so damned intimidating. It seemed to want to know everything about me: hardly anymore than I had revealed on MySpace, but still a lot for a budding new network to demand. I was frightened, but I eventually lied about virtually every detail of myself. Bingo!
Being undercover on Facebook was boring. No one would talk to me, and no one had anything interesting to say. What little I did see was all the same generic information template and ugly, outdated layout (though admittedly pretty modern by MySpace’s standards). With a heavy heart, I admitted that, although Facebook may be more competently maintained than its predecessor, it still just wasn’t what I was looking for in a social network.
It took me over a year to get over the loss. I’d been wronged twice in one lifetime — dreams slashed by the heartless masses maintaining the giant, monolithic enterprises of MySpace and Facebook. I just couldn’t take another hit.
Then I heard about Twitter. But it wasn’t the next Facebook, no… I heard that it could be a supplement to Facebook, that it was too different to even be considered on the same playing field. Maybe a unique social network is what I needed all along, I thought.
I was determined not to let this Twitter thing catch me off-guard like its predecessors had done, so I did a little deep thought this time. What could I expect from a “different” social networking experience? I suppose it would be something hard to guess, since it wouldn’t be very different otherwise. I decided that the secret must be in that cryptic name — “Twitter”? What was up with that? “Twitter” is something my heart does after I get my first kiss, not the name of a website!
So I tried thinking outside the box. What else could “twitter” mean?
I thought, “twit” can mean “idiot”, so maybe it’s a website for idiots? British idiots, based on the vocabulary involved. But that seemed too obvious, so I tried to think of other things that “twit” could be. I eventually came to the conclusion that “twit” could be a different onomatopoeia for “tweet”, like the twittering of birds.
So was Twitter a website for birds? It seemed reasonable at first — birds are rather important, after all. Turkeys are birds; without turkeys we’d have to skip Thanksgiving every year, which would eventually make the months go out of sync with the seasons. But something about that just seemed wrong. I couldn’t recall ever seeing a bird use a computer, and there would need to be a reasonable number of them doing so to necessitate the existence of a social network such as Twitter.
That’s when it hit me: this wasn’t a site for birds, it was a site for birds, with a wink wink and a nudge nudge. “Birds” from the 1930s who are still kickin’ around and need to get in contact with all their birdy friends. Who knows what they might talk about? Now I was on to something!
And could it be that the name “Twitter” contained a double meaning of sorts? I reasoned that, if the marketing genius behind a name that crafty could have one obscure meaning, surely they could have two. “Twit” is barely one key off “tit”, and tits would certainly reach a wider demographic than old women in their 80s, right? But selling to both markets would be even smarter!
I decided that there was only one logical meaning behind Twitter’s name: that Twitter was a social networking website for 80-year-old women to show off their tits. Made sense to me, and seemed more original than Facebook and MySpace had been. I knew that Twitter had to be something special to make people praise it so much.
Swelling with pride, I registered for Twitter. Half an hour later, I realized that it was yet another site for people to whine about their boring-ass lives, and most definitely NOT a place to discuss granny tits.
What a gyp.