“We must help children on the autism spectrum to get in touch with their emotions,” Kamini Lakhani said one day. “Because it’s difficult for them to understand emotions, they do and say things that people find ‘abnormal’ “, she explained. “Addressing this will make it easier for them to build genuine relationships and lead more fulfilling lives.”
Kamini is a brilliant woman. Each time she speaks, I listen in awe. Just like a million other interactions with her, this one was a revelation for me. It gave me deeper insights into autism. I shared these thoughts on Reddit to get opinions of others who know about the condition. One of them (on the autism spectrum herself) knocked the wind out of my lungs with her response.
“One of my largest barriers to forming relationships is that I am expected to learn and accommodate (sic) others’ emotions, but their social instincts keep them from accomodating (sic) mine. The one-sided work involved defeats the purpose of having relationships in the first place. Until non-autistic people become able to put themselves in my shoes and see things from my perspective, all relationships with non-autistic people will be one-sided for me.”
It’s unfair of us to expect individuals with autism to understand our feelings while we refuse to accommodate theirs, right? Now let’s apply this logic to a platform I understand slightly better – Twitter.
With just around 23 million users in India and 320 million global active users, Twitter sits a lowly ninth on the social network charts ranked by active users. Most people say just one thing about it, “I don’t get Twitter. How does it work? How am I supposed to say all that I want to in 140 characters?”
And that, my friend, is the problem. Not Twitter’s, but ours.
For most of us, social media is a platform for distribution, not interaction. It’s about what we want to say, about our opinions and perspectives, however petty they may be. We believe that everything is about us. True to our belief, we make Twitter about ourselves. The result? Our tweets don’t evoke responses. Our follower count doesn’t increase. And we say, “Twitter doesn’t work. It’s useless.”
Honestly though. Can the platform where Oprah Winfrey, Elon Musk, Taylor Swift, Sachin Tendulkar, Smriti Irani, Narendra Modi and other celebrities are their authentic selves, not work? Can the platform that galvanized a nation to overthrow a dictator not work? Can the platform which media journos use to find breaking news, not work?
We must understand how Twitter functions. Facebook is where we talk about what we did, and rant in essays. Facebook is where we hang out with people whom we went to school with. Twitter is where the people whom we wish we went to school with, hang out. And we can hang out with them. Experts, real experts, in every field are present on it, and are dispensing wisdom for free. They are not just talking, they are holding conversations. They are not just sharing their perspectives, but also those of people whom they admire.
Now, here’s a question. Sleep on it if you have to. When you hang out with wise people, will you talk about yourself? Or would you rather listen and absorb pearls of wisdom?
Yes, I hear you. People are talking on Twitter too, you say. What’s the fun in engaging on a platform where we only listen? Heck, Vishal, you keep talking on Twitter too!
And you’re one hundred percent right. But conversations on Twitter are of a different kind.
Gary Vaynerchuk sums it up brilliantly. He asks us to imagine two friends: one who keeps talking about himself, and the other who is there for us when needed. Whom would you rather hang out with? The non-experts who have figured Twitter out are like the latter.
The 140-character restriction doesn’t just help us keep our writing concise. It also helps us streamline our thoughts. On Twitter, it’s about one idea. Not ten, not one hundred. One.
Chris Anderson is talking about public speaking. But this concept can easily be applied to Twitter. It’s about how crisply can you lay the idea out in 140 characters (or less). If you share a blog post, can you intrigue people about the idea in about 120 characters or less?
To get a hang of Twitter, start following thirty accounts. In the Search field, type the topic that interests you, click on people, and browse through their tweets. Do they make you think? Do you enjoy reading them? Follow the accounts whose tweets interest you. They don’t have to belong to a single category. 2-3 categories are fine. When you start following more people, start creating lists. These lists let you focus on – yup – one topic.
Twitter is an experience. And in an experience, the intangibles hold more value. But on Twitter, like everywhere else, we place more emphasis on the tangible versus the intangible, the visible versus the invisible. We give more importance to the follower count rather than the value a person adds. I’ve seen profiles which follow just 700 accounts and have 14,000 followers. But their last twenty one tweets have received no engagement. (I’m sure the number is higher. I just stopped scrolling.) Followers can be bought. That doesn’t mean that such people make sense.
So follow accounts which add value to you. Value doesn’t only mean making your life better. Anything that can make you laugh, or move you, push you to feel something or act on it adds value. The more you follow these accounts, the more addictive Twitter becomes. And you develop the trait of creating and sharing value in whatever you do. This trait will change your life.
Twitter is the equalizer. It provides a platform for people to expose the truth, the other side to stories published by the lie-peddling media. It gives you access to information and perspectives that you wouldn’t otherwise know, even if you were a Google ninja. It lets you consume content in seconds. If something stokes your interest, you can dive deeper into it. Otherwise, you can move on to the next thing. If you truly want to experience this stellar platform, to find sense in the chaos, spend time on it. Start with ten minutes each day. Soon the number will shoot to thirty, and then go into hours.
I am a Twitter addict, like millions. It has taught me more than my MBA has. I have made more amazing connections through Twitter than through Facebook, LinkedIn, and the offline world put together. It has helped me write better, think better, and evolve as a person. To conduct research, I turn to Google. But to develop a perspective, I turn to Twitter. It’s hard to believe that a social media platform can do this to someone. But I am not the only one who believes that this experience has changed his life. Do you want to feel the same way? Then stay tuned. This month, I’ll post insights on how you can crack the Twitter code.
And if you enjoy Twitter, do share why you like it in the comments section. I would love to hear from you.
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