I’d heard about Twitter for months but it took me awhile to grasp the concept. You send out short messages called tweets? Who reads them? Why would anyone care? How is this any different from status updates on Facebook? Eventually, I joined Twitter reluctantly; I kept hearing about links to interesting articles that were showing up in people’s tweets, so I decided to see what all the fuss was about. I had no preconceived notions about how much, or how little, I would tweet.
I started by following people I knew and following people who covered baseball; the former for obvious reasons and the latter because I’m always up for reading something about the game I love and cover for a living. The baseball season was in full swing when I joined, so I started tweeting my observations about the Kansas City Royals games I was watching every night in my role as the Royals pre- and post-game show host on their flagship radio station. At first, my followers were all people I knew. After a while, more and more people I didn’t know started following me; those people were mostly Royals fans who wanted more information about their team. I figured I’d wind up with no more than 1,000 followers. There can’t be that many people interested in what I have to say, I thought.
It didn’t take long for Twitter to become addictive. If I was away from the computer or my phone for a few hours, I’d spend 20 minutes scrolling through all the tweets on my timeline that appeared during my hiatus. I’d wake up in the morning and check every tweet that was sent while I was sleeping. It wasn’t until my now-wife and I visited her family in rural Puerto Rico – where internet access and reliable cell phone service weren’t easy to come by – that I broke myself of my obsessive-compulsive Twitter behavior. I still check Twitter regularly, but I no longer fret over the tweets I might be missing.
It also didn’t take long for me to realize there were a lot more people interested in what I tweeted than I ever imagined. I currently have nearly 4,200 followers, more than four times my original estimate. I’m conscious of how many people follow me – and that most of them follow because I tweet quite a bit about the Royals and other Kansas City-area teams and happenings – but I don’t want to become completely beholden to my followers. Most people on Twitter are relatively anonymous, but I’m not; I’m on the radio regularly and easy to track down if one so chooses. And, because of my lack of anonymity, I have to be conscious about what I tweet. Many in my position choose to play it close to the vest and to only tweet about a specific subject or subjects, keeping the tweets relatively benign and unlikely to stir the pot. However, I couldn’t play it close to the vest if I tried; that doesn’t mean I tweet recklessly, but I don’t place limits on what I tweet about. Most of my tweets will relate to baseball or another sport and I try to be honest in my assessments, making critical statements when I deem criticism to be necessary. However, I tweet about lots of other topics: parenthood, politics, pet peeves, observations, news that may only interest me, etc. Like everything else I do, I want my Twitter account to be a reflection of me; I consider myself to be a sports fanatic who has a variety of other interests and concerns and I want my tweets to show that.
I enjoy answering questions and discussing a variety of topics with my Twitter followers; they learn a little more about me and I learn a little more about them, too. The majority of my interactions on Twitter have been positive, even my interactions with those whom I disagree. More often than not, I enjoy the back-and-forth with my followers and many have told me they appreciate that I’ll actually respond to them, whereas many others won’t. I will even respond to the handful of people who are harsh or unnecessarily negative toward me; I usually respond by retweeting those comments or responding to them in a way that allows all of my followers to view my response. I have yet to block someone for tweeting negative things or unsubstantiated criticism to me; often, such haters are so surprised you’d respond to them, they back off. Twitter has also allowed me to connect with others who cover baseball; I’ve arranged several radio interviews and developed a few contacts thanks to Twitter. Through Twitter, I’ve also gotten restaurant recommendations, reconnected with acquaintances I haven’t heard from in years and been offered free legal and medical advice from apparent experts in those fields (I’ve declined those offers).
Sometimes, I have to remind some of my followers about the free and voluntary nature of Twitter. I’m amused by the “no one cares” responses I occasionally get regarding my tweets from some. It cracks me up when I’m told to “stick to sports” or “stick to the Royals” when I tweet about non-sports or non-Royals topics. One of the great things about Twitter is it can be whatever you want to be; I will never understand those on Twitter who don’t get that concept. Besides, Twitter would bore me if I, and everyone else, only tweeted about work and/or followed the same boilerplate. By the same token, it amuses me when I see articles and blog posts about how to use Twitter. There are no hard-and-fast Twitter rules; tweet about what you want and follow, or don’t follow, whomever you want. Don’t want to reveal much about yourself? Fine. Want to use Twitter as your personal confessional? That’s fine, too. Want to follow only a handful of people who only tweet about a specific topic? Go for it. Want to follow thousands of people from a variety of disciplines? Make it happen. I think the universal and adaptable nature of Twitter is why its popularity continues to grow.
Okay, time for me to post this blog, so that I can tweet a link to it. Even if no one cares.Follow @raford3