Today is Twitter’s fifth anniversary. So what better day than today to explain my abrupt and unexplained termination of my Twitter account?
Maybe a year or so ago, I started getting fairly active on Twitter. I would tweet maybe 2-5 times a day about mostly China. After a while I was following around 900 people and had around 4,000 people following me and I was on hundreds of Twitter lists for China.
Then one day a few months ago, I shut down my Twitter account and I have not tweeted nor read a tweet since, though I did immediately start a new account just so I could hang on to my @danharris tag (but I have never used that account, nor do I plan to do so).
When I logged off Twitter for good, I received a number of emails asking me why and I still occasionally get such emails. This post is my explanation to all of our readers, though I note that we never linked to my Twitter account from this blog.
Let me start out by saying I have not once regretted my decision. Not even in the slightest.
I stopped using Twitter because I ceased to enjoy it and because I found it to be a waste of my time. Now before anyone gets angry at me for saying this, let me state that I have no problem with others Tweeting or with others acting as though Twitter is the greatest thing in the world. All I am saying here is that it was not right for me. I definitely can see where it makes sense for many people, but it did not make sense for me.
I did not like being confined to 140 characters. I found 140 characters to be just enough to make people think they knew what I was trying to convey, but not enough to really convey what I wanted to convey. I was tired of misunderstandings.
I did not like how so many people use Twitter as nothing more than a platform to disseminate whatever it is that they want to disseminate. For many, it is nothing more than a channel to get more publicity for the article or blog post they just wrote and who needs that?
I also did not like how so many (most?) people use Twitter to incite, rather than to listen or to debate or to learn or to improve or to seek out truth. I guess that is to be expected with 140 characters, but again, who needs that?
I did not like “speaking” on Twitter with people I knew because I found that so impersonal. I much prefer communicating with people I know by doing so via in person meetings, the telephone, or even email.
There are some serious people on Twitter and there are some serious China people on there as well, but I started finding that most (but not all) serious people were Tweeting less and less and the field was getting taken over by people who had little of substance to say. Again though, how much substance can even the most substantial among us fit in 140 characters?
Though I will almost certainly never go back on Twitter, I do have to admit there is one small aspect I miss. Twitter was an amazing way to get a quick answer to obscure questions. I once asked if anyone knew a NYC attorney who did international monetary seizures from NYC banks and within five minutes I got a response that within another 20 minutes or so led me to the perfect attorney. I also once asked which hotel in Urumqi would be best for conducting a deposition over the internet and within 15 minutes had responses from 3-4 people telling me to use the Sheraton.
But overall, I am just so glad to be rid of it all.
What do you think? Twitter, a force for evil or good, or just another medium? Has it ever helped your China business or knowledge and, if so, how? Who should people be following on Twitter for China?
UPDATE: Just read a fascinating post on the Associate’s Mind blog, entitled, “Lawyers: You’re Being Played by Twitter.” This post posits why lawyers (and it no doubt applies to others as well) are induced to stay on Twitter even though it is not good business to do so.
ADDITIONAL UPDATE: Mark Herrmann of the Inside Sraight Column on Above the Law, in a post entitled, “Empirical Proof That Twitter Doesn’t Work,” proves fairly convincingly (if not all that scientifically) that Twitter does not increase readership of his column because people do not click through the Twitter links. He uses this evidence to argue that Twitter is not a good marketing device for lawyers. I agree.