Did you know that this week is Social Media Week?

If gauging the popularity of something can be measured by the number of its followers on Twitter, SMW, at 36,944, is pretty darn popular. It’s clearly a well loved, well attended event. Yet, there’s something about it that repels me.

It took some thinking for me to put my finger on what exactly, because I’m not on the social-media-curmudgeon team. I don’t think we’re all going to unlearn our social skills and die if we interact with people online. I love exchanging amusing anecdotes across the interwebs – but when they’re on Twitter, they fill me with anxiety. Currently, my feelings toward this particular networking service are putting a damper on my enthusiasm for Social Media Week.

The product of a “daylong brainstorming session” by software architects in California, Twitter literally means “a burst of inconsequential information” and “chirps from birds”. These are not things that should cause someone anxiety. Knowing this, my anxiety frustrates me all the more. If Twitter is so inconsequential, why do I suck at it? This is my dilemma: how can I prove that I don’t actually suck IRL if I suck at Twitter? (And perhaps more pressingly, do I, in fact, suck IRL if I suck at Twitter?)

The other night I was having a drink with friends (@disgracelanded, @notnickaustin) and we got to talking about the venerable networking service. Turns out, my friend has over 1000 followers and is following a mere 67. I was shocked. I wanted to ask him what magical powers of manipulation he had. How can one person manage to appear so alluring on the interwebs with a single line bio? And what does he consistently offer to keep these followers so allured? All of a sudden, it was like I barely knew him. To me, he has become a sorcerer of the internet that for whatever reason people desired and I was a schmuck with 50 followers and a pint of PBR.

Anyway, @notnickaustin told me that maybe my problem is that I’m just not being myself on Twitter. This is often the most mystifying and disconcerting advice anyone ever gives, but he was right. I don’t know how to conduct myself on Twitter.  As I mentioned, most of my life is based around inconsequential banter and trivial anecdotes and, on top of all that, I have impeccable spelling – I should be awesome at it!

Ultimately, Twitter is hard. You have to navigate your way around a lot of #’s and @’s, all the while trying to come up with clever and relevant shit to say. And then, who do you say it to? Why am I talking? Being popular on Twitter is a lot harder than acting cool at a party where there’s no required way to address someone. If you say something stupid at a party, you can explain yourself. If you fuck up on Twitter, you can’t take it back and you just look like an idiot (for 4 seconds until your tweet is overcome by everyone else’s chitchat).

Horrifying or not, we’re pressing on into a world that’s becoming increasingly dominated by the such web-based chit-chat, but I don’t think we should feel bad if we suck at it right off the bat. Twitter is actually astonishingly new and there’s no real instruction out there. Like the toddler who doesn’t know how to work a magazine because she thinks its an iPad and the following debate about bringing web devices into classrooms, how are we ever going to learn to work these things if no one teaches us?

Until that tutorial presents itself in a more intelligible setting than over pints, I’ll just be hangin’ out on the interwebs, trying to not appear like a toddler. See ya on the feedz!

by Kait Fowlie | photo by juliaroy via Flickr