My use of Twitter is tied to what some people may call my special interest, and that is taking actions, such as sending emails and signing petitions, relating to animal welfare, the environment and people. I have an unbroken record of all such actions since January 2006. For the period from 1st January 2006 to 30th June 2021, I have taken 12,591 actions. The annual number of actions varies considerably: the lowest figure is 255, the median is 648 and the highest figure is 1,732. One of the pieces of information I record for each action is the contact method – email, petition, postcard, survey, tweet or website email (I distinguish between emails and website emails because the former are written by me whereas the latter are based on templates which I usually amend) – and my records show that my first tweet was sent on 23rd July 2015. I had been aware of Twitter for some time before July 2015 but had not taken much interest in the platform because of the limitations which were placed on the length of each tweet. I objected to having such a strict limit on the number of characters I could use to express myself and the limitation precluding any in-depth communication. My further objections to the format of tweets related to what I was taught during my English lessons at school: I was told not to use contractions in my writing (so I will write, for example, “shall not” rather than “shan’t”) and that punctuation is integral to meaning (“Abbie, his wife, shot him” has a very different meaning to “Abby, his wife shot him”, but there is only a comma difference in the text). Contractions and the lack of punctuation were, it seemed to me, very necessary to writing tweets which met the character limitation.
Over time, however, I began to notice that the number of campaigns using tweets was increasing. I continued to ignore Twitter because I was still able to send emails etc. for such campaigns. As time went on, I noticed that tweets were replacing emails for some of the campaigns in which I was interested and that the exclusive use of tweets for campaigns was on an upward trend. This not only meant that I no longer had a way of adding my voice to those campaigns, but that I would be excluded from participating in more and more campaigns. I gave the matter considerable thought and eventually concluded, very reluctantly, that I would have start using Twitter. There was one condition which I placed on myself for my use of Twitter and that was for the vast majority of tweets to be related to animal welfare issues as that is the area about which I am most concerned. I have stuck to that condition, having sent only 4 campaign tweets not related to animal welfare since July 2015.
My reluctance to use Twitter is reflected in the number of campaign tweets (6) I sent from July to December 2015. In 2016, I sent only 2 tweets. By comparison, I sent 77 emails plus 111 website emails for the same period in 2015 and 82 emails plus 275 website emails during 2016. Of course, my self-imposed precondition for using Twitter played a small part in such a low number of tweets. 2017 saw my highest number of tweets (25) in a year but I still sent considerably more emails, of both kinds, than tweets in that year. From 2018 to 2020, the number of tweets I have sent (15-18) has been similar each year and 2021 looks as though it will also result in a similar number; perhaps this is the start of a trend. The figures from 2018 onwards were a surprise to me as I thought they would be more varied and lower. Maybe I have somehow settled on a level of tweeting with which I am comfortable. If that is the case then it has not been a conscious decision because I do not count the number of annual tweets. In addition to my list of actions, I have 19 worksheets which summarise the data but only 2 of those summarise my contact methods and neither shows the annual figures. To get the data for this post, I had to create a new summary worksheet which will be deleted once I have finished writing this text.
Most of my tweets are based on templates provided by the organisations coordinating the campaigns because I do not know, for example, where Twitter names should appear in a tweet. I also have no understanding of Twitter hashtags. I do try to remove contractions and abbreviations from the template-based tweets and try to add punctuation to those tweets. When I see these template tweets using contractions and omitting punctuation, I still feel they are wrong because they go against what I was taught at school and so I feel the need to correct such tweets. Some of those same template tweets omit basic punctuation and yet include multiple question marks and/or exclamation marks, sometimes they even combine those two punctuation marks and do so multiple times. I cannot leave such tweets unchanged. If a question is being asked then one question mark at the end of the question is sufficient. Similarly, if the text is an exclamation then one exclamation mark at the end of the text is sufficient. I am not a user of emojis and I delete them from all my template-based tweets.
There are some tweets on my feed which are not related to campaigns but they were experiments in which I lost interest very quickly. I thought I would like to see what would happen, if anything, if I posted such tweets. Once the tweets were posted, however, I very soon forgot about them and did not often, if at all, check if they had reached anyone else.
I have two Twitter followers and that happened because somebody I know decided to follow me. Even if I knew how to increase the number of followers, I would not do so because I have no interest in people following my Twitter feed. At one time, I was following two Twitter feeds related to animals but my timeline seemed swamped with tweets as a result and there did not appear to be any way in which to organise the tweets. As I do not often log in to Twitter, I remained a follower of the two feeds without taking the time to read their tweets. Eventually, I became fed up with such an unorganised timeline and stopped following those feeds. My timeline now looks a lot cleaner and is all the better for not showing tweets from other accounts. There is one Twitter account I “follow” but I do that by visiting the web page on an almost daily basis and reading the tweets which have been posted since my previous visit.
My knowledge of Twitter is very limited and not that much better than it was when I created an account in July 2015. If I do learn something, like where to place the Twitter name in a tweet, then I tend to forget it very quickly and so have to search for the answer as and when needed. One of the reasons for my lack of knowledge is that I am, by choice, an infrequent and irregular Twitter user. But the main reasons for my lack of knowledge — and for my infrequent and irregular use of the platform — are that I dislike Twitter and, deep down, actually object to Twitter. Part of my objections to Twitter is that it is a single provider platform and one which does not take privacy and security, particularly the former, seriously.
With regards to my future use of Twitter, the only thing I can be sure about is that I will certainly not be using Twitter to the same level as email. For my requirements, email is a better form of communication because it can be more secure and private, is far more flexible and allows the organisation of messages — I can build my own organisational structures with email, unlike Twitter, and that is something I like doing. Another benefit of email over Twitter is that the user has the choice of provider with the former; I do not like being tied to one provider and either putting up with whatever they decide to do or choosing to stop using the service.
For now, I believe my Twitter usage will stay at the level of 15-18 tweets per year but, based on my other computing experiences, I suspect I will become tired of Twitter in due course and decide that it is no longer worthwhile. Much to my surprise, I felt a sense of relief after I had written the last part of the previous sentence. Perhaps I am closer to reaching the point at which I delete my Twitter account than I realise.