Twitter "Friendships"

Can following a person’s tweets make him a real friend?

Sometime last night or this morning — I can’t keep track with the time zone thing — Andy Piper posted a Twitter tweet with a link to an article by Clive Thompson about Twitter. Because the article reinforces something I’d mentioned in my most recent post here about Twitter, I thought I’d share it.

The key paragraph (as far as I’m concerned) from “Clive Thompson on How Twitter Creates a Social Sixth Sense” on Wired.com is this:

When I see that my friend Misha is “waiting at Genius Bar to send my MacBook to the shop,” that’s not much information. But when I get such granular updates every day for a month, I know a lot more about her. And when my four closest friends and worldmates send me dozens of updates a week for five months, I begin to develop an almost telepathic awareness of the people most important to me.

This is pretty much I was trying to say in the introduction of my post. But I can go on to say that even though many of these people started out as strangers, reading their tweets day after day have given me a certain awareness about them that a real friend — but perhaps not a good friend — would have.

Twitter as a Way to Make Friends

I see Twitter as a way to make friends across the world. Although, I don’t ever expect to ever meet most of these people in person, there is a chance that I might actually make real friends with one or two.

For example, I’m actively seeking out interesting Twitter members who live in Arizona to follow. By following their tweets, I can get a sense of what these people are all about. If we have a lot in common, it’s easy enough to take the next step to start a real friendship. And it’s easy enough for them to respond or ignore me.

TwitterificI’m not talking instant friendships here. I’m talking about possibly months of watching tweets as part of my day. In my case, that means having Twitterific open on my Mac’s desktop and peeking at the tweets of a handful of people as they come in. I delete “friends” who really don’t seem to be on the same wavelength with me and add “friends” who might. Over time, the ones who remain on my desktop are the ones that could become real friends. If they’re in the area, why not get together for coffee or a hike or a museum trip?

It All Comes Down to Being Picky

It all comes down to using Twitter seriously, which I’ve discussed in at least one other blog post about Twitter. Use a Twitter tool (like Twitterific or some other program that selectively tracks tweets) to track only the tweets of people who interest you. Obviously, real friends should be included — if you can get them to use Twitter.

To find new people to follow, I’ll occasionally watch Twittervision and read the tweets posted in the US, especially in my area. I’ll add one or two “friends” to track for a while. I also use the Public Timeline to find interesting tweets and add corresponding Twitter members. In both cases, I limit my time to about 5 minutes — without setting a limit, either of these monitoring tools could suck hours away from your life.

My biggest problem: Most Twitter users are between 18 and 27 years old. That really shows in their posts. (Take that any way you like.) My goal is to find mature, interesting people to follow.

And, little by little, I think I’m building up a good group of Twitter “friends.”

But the question remains: will any of these people become real friends? We’ll see.

2 thoughts on “Twitter "Friendships"

  1. Hi –

    I was pointed to this post by New Media Jim on Twitter. From here I went to your post on Four Steps to Get the Most Out of Twitter, which I enjoyed so much that I posted about it. And added you as a Twitter friend.

    I enjoy the tone of your blog and the approach you seem to be taking to using technology. I read several of your archived posts before I realized you were a Peachpit author; I work for Pearson. Small world, as they say.

    ps – I am 51.

  2. I’ve been enjoying your Tweets on Twitter. Got a nice handful of “friends” there that I keep fine-tuning to learn the most that I can about the way other people live and work. I find it enlightening.

    But I also spend too much time using and writing about Twitter. I hope to snap out of that soon.

What do you think?