This was supposed to be a column about how much I detested Twitter. How it's responsible for the death of thoughtful journalism and it's a celebration of our ADD culture.
But a funny thing happened as I prepared to rip into Twitter. I kinda got hooked.
• It's functional. I'm looking for information, fast. And I hope that folks are looking the same from me. A quick look at my list of those I'm following gives me an unfiltered look at the news, opinion and analysis coming from sources that I know and trust.
• It's fair. Journalists are now being held to the same standard that we demand of candidates and elected officials. They are forced to take the entirety of their lives, hopes, aspirations and thoughts and shove them into 30-second sound bites. Now, we journalists are being forced (have the opportunity?) to do the same thing.
• It's concise. At just 140 characters, you have no choice but to get right to the point. Sure, sometimes the "point" can be somewhat inane. But I find that most of the people I choose to follow have as little time for tweeting about the inconsequential details of their lives as I do. Twitter isn't a replacement for long-form writing or thoughtful analysis. But it is the place to summarize those pieces and boil them down to their essence. It's in the moment. Or, just ahead of the moment. Very little that we political journalists write is so complicated that it can't be explained in one sentence.
• It's as social as you make it. Unlike Facebook, no one's "poking" me. There aren't the incessant invitations to join groups like "Libras for Plugging the BP Spill." Just because someone follows me doesn't mean I need to follow him. It's almost purely a one-way transactional relationship. I say something. You say something. We don't need to get beyond that.
This doesn't mean, however, that tweeting is antisocial. There's the retweet, where one person credits another for their post. There's also the tradition of promoting other Twitterers every Friday. Of course, like all social media, it's susceptible to cliquish behavior. But if you don't want to play along, you don't have to.
• It's helpful in building one's craft. Some see Twitter as the ultimate expression of laziness: Have a thought? Forget about waiting to share it. Just tap it out on that BlackBerry for the world to see, typos and syntax be damned.
But I've had the opposite experience. It's actually been a great tool to discipline me to write less -- not more. As someone who's prone to get lost in the weeds, the whole Twitter thing has forced me to get out the lawnmower and get to the stuff that really matters. I'm still learning to tame the "twitchy finger" (putting something up before I have all the information in front of me). But, as we've all learned after a decade or so of e-mail, you don't put anything in print that you can't defend.
Of course, there's no guarantee that I'm always going to feel as positive about this whole Twitter thing. In fact, I fully expect to hate it at some point. For now, however, it's working for me.
Follow Amy Walter on Twitter: @HotlineEditor.
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