"Are you kidding? Why on earth would I join a site where all it is is updating my status over and over. I have Facebook, thanks, that's enough for me. This Twitter thing sounds dumb. It will be here and gone like MySpace. I don't even know anybody that is on it and how can I keep my privacy protected by people I don't want know anything about! Plus, you only get 140 characters to type something. BLAH!"
The statement above became my "rehearsed line" for about the course of a year when anyone in my inner circle would ask, "have you signed up for Twitter yet?" Not that they had signed up or anything, but they know that I always seem to jump on the new "tech train/web 2.0" tools and then abandon them as soon as I become disinterested with it. I actually was "The Anti-Twitter" and would tell everyone that Twitter was just like updating the Facebook status line, why would I want another outlet to do that?
Then, that day happened. That day when I went to www.twitter.com and hit that "sign up now" button. I still remember that little blue bird, sitting there, waiting for me, calling out to me to contribute countless Twitter messages that later I would call "Tweets" to absolutely no one that would even see it. It actually started when I was out for lunch with my sister (@wdwgirl1) and she said that she had signed up for Twitter to start posting things about what her students were up to in their grade one class. Of course, my rolling of the eyes and my rehearsed statement came out and I was off on my anti-Twitter rant again. Then, and in only the way a sister can, she said, "Have you tried it? Then don't knock it." It was a very direct statement that left me with the challenge of actually seeing what this site was all about before I said another word about Twitter in her presence. So, on Sunday, May 17th, 2009, at 2:10 pm (thanks, Ubertwitter, for keeping that record)with 0 tweets, 0 followers, and 0 people following me, my social networking world shifted into something that I had never thought possible before.
Of course, as with all new things, I was hesitant and I remember, my first tweet stating, "jumping into this without a parachute" and I hit that update button. Then I started figuring that I should actually start "following" some people in hopes of figuring out what would happen. Of course I started with the "Twitter Top 4" which included "Ellen, Oprah, CNN, and Ashton". Then, as I was looking I saw this link for something called www.wefollow.com . So I went there and they asked to to type in types of things I was interested in. Naturally, I went with "Disney, WDW, EdTech, Running". It was immediately after inputting those words, and searching for them on this site that the doors swung wide open for me and a flock of those little blue Twitter birds and the fail whale sang the Hallelujah Chorus.
Who were all these people that were interested in the things that I was interested in? @loumongello? @allearsdeb? @disneydean? @zannaland? @Ndm_1? @marcmantoo? @markymarc70? @aaronspod? @disneyfoodblog? @courosa? (form Education prof that I had) @shareski? (our school division's EdTech consultant, so I knew who he was) @tiffiniholland? @coryholland? @dawnis? (one of our city councillors) @disneyrunner? @mpmark? @bonnieg88? @jillianmichaels? @mytrainerbob? Ok, fine, follow, follow, follow! hmmmmmm? I wonder who they follow? They seem cool. Ok, follow, follow, follow.
After that, I decided to head out to the farm, as I usually do on a Sunday afternoon. Should I tweet that I am going to the farm? Maybe. Sure. I don't know! What I do remember though is that, when I got out there, I decided to use my blackberry to find out if there was anything that I could use to actually tweet from my phone. I knew it could be done because I had heard that you could, but how? So after one google search I found this thing call "Ubertwitter". Ok, why not! I like the sound of the name when I say it, so I will download it and see. Then, all of the sudden I could see everyone's tweets on my Blackberry. Cool! I could watch all of these tweets come through on my phone. Oh, plus you can add a picture if you want to your tweets. Hey, the girls are flying a kite. Sure, why not! Click! Upload to Ubertwitter and, Voila, it was out there! Then someone tweeted back that the kite flying looked like fun(don't remember who). I tweeted back and said, "yes, lots of fun out here in the wind today."
From that moment on it has been a complete blur and now all of the sudden I am sitting in my chair, tonight, typing out this blog, Tweetdeck is running in the background with @tiffiniholland and @coryholland (married couple that I am following from Nashville. THEY ROCK!) going back and forth at each other of things that Cory promises he won't do when he is older (wear socks with flip flops or call his wife an old maid), @disneyrunner (Gordon, www.runtodisney.com, from Alabama completed a race this morning and is off to bed now), and many people are discussing their day at Walt Disney World as the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival has started and there was a D23 event today. Today is Saturday, March 6th, 2010, at 10:41 pm and I have posted 9152 tweets, with 647 followers, and I am following 554 people.
So, after all this, I guess the question is, and the one I am answering now when people ask, "Brett, what has changed your opinion about Twitter since you joined? You used to despise it."
My answer, "a broader perspective into the amazing connections, resources, conversation, and power of a social network that all come from me creating it by hitting that FOLLOW button."
Twitter has opened my eyes that there are people out there that have similar interests that I do and that even though I may never be in the same room as these people we can chat, share resources, and in 140 characters get our point out there for people to see. I have created "My Network". No one else in the world has the same network as me. I choose who I want to follow and who I don't want to follow. I choose what I want to tweet about. I get to use those 140 characters in any way that I wish. I have heard it said over and over, "Twitter is like a party where we all have little conversations with each other." There is never a "hello" and "goodbye" as we are all connected 24/7.
My network is made up of people who share my interests. I have had motivation and tips from runners and other fitness professionals. I have had resources posted from educators all over the world, some of which I have made use of in my classroom. Those educators have even gotten me to rethink my philosophy on education based on the thoughts that they shared. Finally, my most strongest network on Twitter, my Disney Tweeps that are absolutely the most incredible folks I have ever followed (and I am hoping this year, will definitely have the chance of meeting in person). Through this network I have met authors of Disney books that I have read, cast members that work for the parks and the Disney company, and fans of Walt Disney World that share (and have gone on as many trips as I have) the love for that piece of land in Florida. Plus, with my entire network, we have shared in happy times, tragedies, accomplishments, births, marriages, and many other countless experiences that we have all had in our lives. Could it be that I have actually gotten to that point where I might have actually thought about giving up my beloved Facebook for my Twitter network? Trust me, I have thought about it but when I mentioned it to some friends and family they freaked because they are still in the Facebook camp.
To show what goes around comes around, I still remember in June of last year, my teaching partner, @B_Bmom (Tana, whom I have taught with for six years) took my phone one afternoon and kept it hidden until the end of the day because she thought I was on Twitter too much. She eventually gave the phone back and then started to wonder what this Twitter thing was really all about. A few days later she signed up for Twitter. Now, she owns a blackberry and is constantly retweeting and posting on Twitter and building her network. Hmmmmm, wonder if I should steal her phone for the day? Give her a taste of her own medicine!
Plus, to show the power of Twitter, a few days ago, it was my birthday. Tana and I were working out at the gym (on my birthday) and we were talking about what my biggest birthday wish would be. Well, as a huge fan of The Biggest Loser on NBC, I said that I would love for Jillian Michaels (sigh) to wish me a happy birthday. Of course, I laughed as I said it because to me it would never happen. Then Tana said, "well, she is on Twitter (and she is verified with that blue checkmark which means it is her) so let's put it out to our networks to see what would happen." Tana posted a request for Jillian to wish me a happy birthday and I retweeted it to my network. Over the course of the day I watched this tweet blow up until I am sure Jillian Michaels thought she had a stalker on her hands. My network and Tana's network were retweeting and adding comments to Jillian. I was in shock. Still, no tweet from Jillian came. I was not too worried as it was a long shot. However, the next day, I was told to check my phone from my cousin Bonnie. My first reaction was, "No, it couldn't have happened, could it?" This is what I saw:
That's right, Jillian Michael's had posted a happy birthday message to me! To me, that is pretty cool and just goes to show that things can happen when you put it out there to your network. For me, searching Google is the second thing that I do nowadays. If I ever have a question about something, I will pose it to my network first because, I am more likely to get a beneficial answer back from someone that knows. "Anyone know a good running training program? Anyone used this website in their classrooms? Who is staying for EMH at the MK and going to ride the TTA or HM or POTC?" (if you can answer that last question, you are part of my Disney network!)
Some tips that I have figured out about using Twitter while using it over the last number of months:
1. This is your network. You get to build it. You get to decide who you follow. You get to decide if you want to unfollow someone. That's the way it is.
2. Building your network takes time. It does not happen over night. You need to spend some time looking for people to follow.
3. You need to be willing to put yourself out there. Respond to people's tweets. Share resources and links to things you find useful. You will be surprised how many people will share back.
4. Twitter is NOT something you have to commit to all the time. You get to decide when you post tweets and when you sit back and watch.
5. Follow people from all areas of interest that you have. From here, you get to watch your network grow and grow.
6. Enjoy the experience of getting to know people that you normally would not find yourself in a room with. Twitter is not about the number of people following you, it is about you following people that will be beneficial to your network and your experience on Twitter.
So, Beckie, sister of mine who always gives me the look and the tone, "don't knock it till you try it", I have tried Twitter. You were right, I.....was......wrong. I don't admit that too often. The anti-Twitter Brett is dead. I have been newly conformed and am grateful for this tool and my amazing network! YOU ALL ROCK!
Now, as Tweetdeck has been running in the background as I typed this up, I see a few mentions I need to go and reply to as some people are wondering what I am writing on my blog. Plus, @coryholland is still posting things he will never do when he gets old. I am going to have to meet him someday.
Have a good one!