Posted on Jan 29, 2011

Why Twitter Not?

I am back on Twitter, more than 6 months after I made a conscious decision to keep away from it for a while.

Being one of the earliest users at Twitter, I did not really feel the need for it until I left Cisco, its vast network of brilliant people, and the constant exchange of ideas and information. The move was multiple relocations rolled into one – the relocation from the swarming Cisco cloud to a decrepit 2-man office; from the confined yet anonymous, responsibility-free existence of a nuclear family in Bangalore to the satisfying, distraction-filled joint family existence back home; from the cutting edge of networking technologies to bleeding at the edge of biotechnology without formal training; from the comfort of concentrated technical work to the distractions of administering a start-up. This coincided with Twitter’s bursting upon the global scene, the network effect finally taking it past that critical velocity below which new web startups live constantly resisting crashes and burn-outs. Cut-off from the IT network, Twitter was my saviour, my new link to my old world, which people kept calling the new world.

But Twitter was new territory. I was excited by the freedom of being able to write down thoughts at will, to be read by an actual audience that provides instant feedback. The 140-character limit was counter-intuitively liberating; the freedom from grammatical structure and increased opportunity to play with words brought in a freshness that was exhilarating. Twitter was the Liril of the Web.

The whole world stumbled on it, new opportunities and new pitfalls were discovered, sometimes by people of eminence who suddenly found themselves on slippery slopes. Though insulated by obscurity, I too discovered that Twitter was not the dawn of a whole new free unselfish world. I learned that it was very easy to shoot my mouth off, without assessing consequences. I learned that being frank in Twitter poses the same dangers brought about by na├»ve frankness in life. I learned that recording my every action and thought every day on an online platform opens me up as a target of analysis – Twitter is not really a diary, a tool for confessions. I learned that using Twitter with absolute frankness takes away my power to lie, an essential life-skill. I learned that my personal opinions on politics, society and culture, aired freely on Twitter builds a profile that might not fit with the image that my business wants me to project as its representative.

Yet I could not write without being frank – my writing, however limited it might be, has to reflect my opinions and values. Yes, it has to, as long as I can clearly mark it as personal writing unconnected with other entities that I represent. As long as I can be sure that what I write is my opinion, what I would like to be recorded and published as my opinion, not just a fleeting thought aired in a conversation.

Twitter is a powerful communications and networking tool. It is a great business application. But unless I remain anonymous, lines drawn in life shall extend to online life as well. For Second Life is also Life.

I am back on Twitter.