Think Before You Show Your Tweet

You know those sci-fi movies where some guy suddenly has the ability to read the minds of everyone around him and his eyes roll up in his head and he collapses in a heap, frothing at the ears and utterly insane because he can’t handle the flood of inanities? That’s why I’ve been avoiding Twitter.

I start every day by scanning dozens of feeds from sites and blogs related to my professional pursuits. Serious stuff. Substantial. That’s why I subscribe to them.

Every now and then, I’ll click the link that takes me from my Google Reader to the source. More and more often these days, I’m greeted by a Twitter widget that’s been prominently—proudly, even—placed in a sidebar.

Maybe it’s just me, but my reaction to someone’s latest tweet about how all his socks are dirty, or what tech celebrity he’s lunching with is not a positive one. TMI, people. I don’t want to know and I’m not impressed. Furthermore, you come across as vapid. Or egotistical. Or desperate. My guess is that these are not words you really want people to apply to you.

Don’t get me wrong! I love it when people are open, real, unabashed! And I love that the Internet has made it possible for us to share our complex and wonderful selves with the world in so many ways. But I think just because you can be yourself doesn’t mean you should in every context.

So if you have a Twitter widget on your blog or site, remember what Mom always said about first impressions and take into consideration that potential clients and contacts could react negatively. If you’re not already a superstar in your field, the kind whose idiosyncrasies everyone gladly ignores, you should probably exercise some restraint. Alternatively, you could have separate pro and personal Twitter accounts and display only the pro account widget on your site.

Clearly Twitter can be a useful medium for communication among colleagues, family and friends, but until now, I haven’t been able to get past the “twit” in “Twitter.” That said, I don’t think it’s reached anywhere near its full potential and I’m enjoying watching it (and the way it’s used) evolve. I’m even exploring ways to use Twitter in the online community I launched. Resistance is futile.

Just for grins, and to to get a taste of the Twitter hive-mind effect, check out MyTinyJesus. It’s a site that does nothing but randomly grab tweets from all over the world and display them in a steady stream. It can be entertaining and relaxing, And really annoying…