The other night on Twitter, I promised to pass along an observation about that tool to @dnorman and @mctoonish that I couldn’t squeeze into a tweet. Then I saw Rob Wall’s really interesting post on his impressions of Twitter, and it spurred me to tell my story. Here goes.
My wife, Karin, is a writer, and a darned good one at that. I think being a writer imbues her with some powers of observation that many of us don’t have–kind of a Spidey sense of things. I’ve learned to listen carefully to her casual comments over the years.
So a couple of nights ago, I noticed Karin watching me on Twitter with a bemused look on her face. She asked me why I was tweeting on a Saturday night. I said I couldn’t explain it, but I was finding it strangely addictive, unlike many of the other “community” tools that were out there. What was it that I found so attractive?
-It was connecting me in a new way to a bunch of people I’d enjoyed being with for years in other settings–some good friends, some people I only knew virtually.
-The tweets were a neat combination of really useful stuff and a playful kind of banter, occasional rants, and pithy observations. Yes, it’s kind of fun to know what Dean Shareski is cooking for his kids. Those poor kids! And Alec Couros has been nicknamed the “Courosabot” for his ability to stream links to new stuff.
-Tweets are brief. They satisfied my need to stay connected without having to wade through lengthy posts. And it’s amazing what can be said in 140 letters or less.
-I could ignore them and nothing bad happened, like when I ignore email.
-I could play passively; if I was weary or grumpy, I didn’t have to write anything.
-I could eavesdrop on others’ conversations — a little creepy, but fun.
-I was online all the time anyway.
…and, I said, “It seems to open the door to other conversations.”
“Ah, so it is a bunch of small conversations that set the table to have deeper talks,” said Karin, “that’s how women talk.”
“What? Women? What’s this got to do with gender?”
Now, at the risk of turning this into an oversimplified, silly description of gender differences, I’ll unpack a little bit of what she said. Karin said that women often talk in small conversations that are seemingly innocuous on the surface, but that portend deeper issues. They might talk about any number of things, but it seems to include a feature of building trust. Over time, one person trusts the other enough to deepen the conversation and the relationship. She said that tweets look a little like this: a series of niblets followed by a recommendation, observation or an invitation to a deeper conversation elsewhere.
Really, does this hold any water? Well, I don’t know, but I must say that I thought it was a fresh observation. And it isn’t really about gender (there are as many women as men in my Twitter group); rather it begs the larger question of how different tools provide for different patterns of conversation, and what that means to us as users.