How Tweeting About “My Stupid Breakfast” Creates A Lifestyle Of Continuous Learning
“I don’t want to hear about your stupid breakfast!” is loudly proclaimed as a-priori proof that status updates, using Twitter, and in some cases blogging in general are a waste of time. Could it be that this apparent nonsense, including Tweets that explain why you woke up late, status updates that shout that a movie is stupid, and comments that some person is a dork, are actually a sign of something good?
Much of the content on the web is far from trivial. It is published in blog, status update and long form, and continues to grow in depth and breadth. I believe these apparently trivial and self-focused uses of social media are side effect of the fast and constant influx of new users of these technologies, and not a sign of a problem of any sort. Large numbers of new people continue to start along a developmental path that leads from triviality to personal learning, synthesis, creativity and personal development.
Lots of people publish status updates and blog posts to share personal “what’s happening to me this minute” thoughts. Over time, people start publishing different kinds of material, and end up in a very different place than the one in which they started.
Based on study of the public output of others, many discussions and personal experience, I believe that there are consistent phases of personal development that mark growth through levels of personal publishing facility, capability and goals. It would be interesting to see statistically significant study results in this area – but lacking that, here’s my shot in the dark. What do you think? Does this match your experience? Does it match what you see in the experience of other people?
The 7 Developmental Phases Of Personal Publishing (continued below the fold…)
1) What’s Going On Around Me?
After wondering “what is this all about?” you decide to open an account that has status updates, whether it’s Twitter, or Facebook or MySpace or one of the hundreds of others doesn’t matter much. It’s something that prods you to “say something” by asking you to update your status.
After ignoring the “say something about what you’re doing or thinking” prompt for a while and watching the stream of status updates from other people, you finally decide to say something. Here’s the tricky part… you think to yourself “What do I have to say? I have no clue… so I guess I’ll point out something going on around me that I think might be funny or interesting to someone else.” Thus starts the path… and a “Man, my breakfast is stupid today.” post is born!
2) What Do I Think Of What’s Going On Around Me?
For a while, pointing out things going on around you is fun, but after a while that gets a bit boring. You think “what else could I talk about?” Here and there you decide to tell people who are following your updates what you think about things going on around you. This takes a jump in public confidence level, because after all they can comment back, and they might not agree! Advancing through these phases both builds and indicates the growth of confidence in personal publishing… bit by bit.
3) Look At These Things I’ve Found That I Think Are Interesting
As you gain confidence and realize that you aren’t getting yelled at for telling people what’s going on around you and what you think of it (sometimes), you decide to tell people about interesting things you’ve found. Here you’ve graduated from just “saying something” to pointing out something interesting, and you start posting updates with links to articles, videos or blog posts that catch your fancy. By now you might have a bit of a following, and people comment on the things you’ve found, or even re-send them to their followers.
4) Here Are Some Things I’ve Found That I Think Might Be Interesting To You
A realization hits… People are actually interested in some of the things you talk about, but not all of them. It’s at first puzzling to figure out which things they like and comment on and which ones don’t generate any reaction. After a while more, though, you start to get a sense of what people in your network respond to, and you start in a light way paying attention to the things you stumble on, or thoughts you have, that you think your network might actually be interested in. You start to develop “a voice” that is a blend of your interests with a bit of tailoring to make sure to include the things your network responds to. Now your updates often include pointers to other things on the web that you’re pretty sure your network (or networks – since many of us have followers with varied interests.)
5) Here Are Some Things I’ve Thought Of
Up to this point, most of your output has been to point at other peoples’ work, or to comment on your reaction to other peoples’ work. In this phase, that emphasis starts to shift, as you start to synthesize your own thoughts and ideas, and frame and publish them to see what other people think of your work.
6) Concepts And Things I’ve Created That I Hope Will Be Interesting To You
After a while of publishing your own thoughts and concepts, you start to get a feel for your followers’ interests. You might start to think about new concepts and ideas that your followers would be interested in, or perhaps purposefully start to publish in an area that attracts new followers. At this point, you’ve started to develop a more sophisticated voice, and are focused more of your efforts on creation of new, original work.
7) Researching, Learning and Developing Content That Is Of Interest To You And Others
By now, you’ve gotten used to the idea of publishing regularly, and are finding that you want to go out and research some of your topic areas to fuel new ideas and new things you can talk about. You’ve integrated the idea of researching and learning so that you can contribute back original work into your normal flow, and are starting to gain a following who are intrigued by your work, interests and positions on key issues.
One day, you wake up and realize that you’ve made on-going learning, research, synthesis and writing a basic part of your everyday life. It’s become reflexive and gives benefits back to you and to those who follow you. Oops. How did that happen? Last you knew you were Tweeting about your stupid breakfast!
Hopefully, the next time you see someone Tweeting about their stupid breakfast, or hear a complaint that Tweeting, doing status updates and maybe even blogging are a stupid waste of time (… and no, the parallels between those comments doesn’t escape me!) maybe a small voice in your head will say “Maybe that’s not such a bad thing – bring it on, because I can’t wait to hear what’s coming next!”