In the space of 140 characters

I got an email yesterday asking me if I wouldn't mind describing what Twitter means to me, professionally, and if I could do this within one-hundred-and-forty-words...

twittering birds

And while ruminating on the answer to that, I thought about Alex Case's posts about online parties and Ask Auntie Web's description of me as a networking natural (which was like, the weirdest thing to read, like reading about someone else entirely)...

As I should really get down to setting up a schedule for this blog keeping Mondays or Tuesdays for lesson plans, suggestions and tech-tips, using Thursdays and Fridays for the longer pieces, workshops, the upcoming She-in-ELT series and teacher training issues, today it happens to be Sunday (my day for rants and other thought-pieces) so I'm musing about Twitter.

This is my theory:

Who you are on Twitter
Who you really are.

Not rocket science, I suppose.

In my comments on Alex's blog, I mentioned that deep down I'm kind of shy.

Yet, if I really get down to being self-reflectively honest then I suppose I have to admit that I'm not really that much, anymore.

As a child we moved around the world and I spent my teenage years in a boarding school, which had the result you'd anticipate: I spent most of my time reading and writing, saving stray dogs and in figuring out how to break into predefined cultural cliques... and when they didn't want me, how to simply entertain myself with my own mind.

Today, in my non-online life, I prefer quiet groups made up of sincere people who have interesting things to to say or share, not big on parties where I don't know others, love people who are interested in the same things that I am and people with their own personalities interested in things I'm not, surround myself with people who make me think, giggle or grow.

Today, in my online life, I still adore sincere people, faithfully follow links to tidbits of knowledge and also enjoy the warmth of developing international friendships with people who, in many cases, I now have more in common with than those I'm not online with.

parrotBut I've also been casually observing those I follow and have discovered that on Twitter, more so than on any other social-networking site, people simply reveal much more about their core personality within the space of those one-hundred-and-forty-characters.

I came up with a list:

  • those who are funny people in real life, are hilarious within 140 characters.
  • those that are arrogant, are impossible to tolerate.
  • those who are mavens of information, abundantly link, abundantly share.
  • those that are insecure and those who prefer themselves to all others, talk about themselves. And they are able to do this, consistently, within 140 characters.
  • those who are sweet or gentle have hearts that literally jump off the screen at you.
  • those that are antagonistic, start fights.
  • those that are lonely show their need for love and attention without realizing we can see it.
  • those that are afraid or nervous or brave or good or desperate or intelligent or warm or interesting, are.
  • those who have nothing to say in real life, don't have anything to say there either.
  • those with much to say, don't stop talking.

And those who are excessively long-winded, like me, have to write a blog about it.

One hundred and forty words?

I will have a hard time answering that email.

Useful links related to this posting:
-Join Twitter by Shelly Terrell on Burcu Akyol's EFL blog
-Twyths by Neal Chambers
-Twitter for teachers by Jason Renshaw
-The OMG-WTF spectrum

Karenne (a.k.a. @kalinagoenglish)

11 Responses to “In the space of 140 characters”

  • Shelly Terrell says:
    August 09, 2009

    I always marvel at how many places you have been too that I have learned of in our real life conversations. Now I know part of the reason why you are such a world travel! Thanks for sharing! I really enjoy your personal pieces. I thought you were amazing offline so finding you exceptional online came to no surprise :-)

  • Carol Goodey says:
    August 09, 2009

    Good luck with writing the email, Karenne :-)

    I love this piece. I find it amazing that people's personalities do come through so well in 140 characters at a time and would like to add to your list - those who just can't resist stirring things for fun! (IWBs come to mind...can't think why!)

    I also have to say that in the short time I've known you online, I've never found you long winded! You have a lot to say, and enjoy sharing it, but I've never seen you go on too much.

    August 09, 2009

    Oh yes, I forgot about the HE-who-takes-the-piss-out-of-technology-in-order-to-wind-up-the-edu-technologists...

    What would twitter be like without dear Scott ,-)

  • Tobius says:
    August 09, 2009

    Maybe that's why I don't twitter. I'm not comfortable with the nakedness of it. I need my layers of protection. . . to hide my secret identity.

  • Alex Case says:
    August 09, 2009

    Nice post. Like books and films on excessive drug indulgence, it is great to learn about humanity from Twitter without needing to use it myself!

    And the people who refuse to get involved in Twitter are... in real life??

    August 09, 2009


    LOL... it's a strange zone to get into and honestly Toby and Alex, I didn't "get" Twitter in the beginning.

    I don't think anyone needs Twitter but whoever is on and connected with others interested in the same things, really finds great benefit from it.

  • Burcu Akyol says:
    August 09, 2009

    A very good overview of the Twitter profiles Karenne!

    Personally the ones that most irritate me are the arrogant...I find arrogant people very irritating in real life too. I'm glad that most of the people I interact with daily on Twitter are fun, friendly and supportive.

    I'm sure your description of what Twitter means to you in 140 words will be very inspiring.


  • Jason Renshaw says:
    August 09, 2009

    Great read, Karenne, and some fascinating observations. Gosh, there I was trying my hardest to be an imposter on Twitter, and you come along and pass on to everyone your best tips on how to see straight to the core of your average Tweeter... I'll have to work on my disguise, and look more carefully at those tweets buzzing around the place from others.


    ~ Jason

  • Peter Travis says:
    August 09, 2009

    Totally agree Karenne. I've always thought that one of the most interesting things about Twitter is how it really does give you an insight into the personalities of the tweeters. I might send all mine off to an analyst and see what she/he comes up with!
    Great blog you have here by the way!

    August 09, 2009

    Thanks Peter, it is so funny - there I was thinking this morning that I was the only one sitting in front of my tweetdeck amateur analyzing characteristics ...and now I realise we're all doing it!

    LOL - I'd better watch out...

    Jason, you know how happy I am that now I can see your great smiling face instead of that cartoon bird! Photos are part of the equation, aren't they. I loved your post on that issue.

    Burcu - am with you. 125%.

    Arrogance is just plain dumb - sometimes when I see one of those tweets go out there I just shake my head and think... you do realise that like, you know, like ALL your followers just saw that???

    And like we all have an opinion about that.

    NaaYaah, twitter is such good fun, although sometimes, (despite all of our fabulous learning networks and sharing such valuable information all the time, it can be a wee bit like a big schoolyard ;-))

    Love it!


  • Unknown says:
    August 19, 2009

    Thanks Karenne! Once again, a blog article that I really enjoyed reading and definitely identified with.


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