Ok, I admit that I’m not one of those early adopter folks. I didn’t buy a first generation iPod, iMac, Macbook, iPhone, Blackberry, Sidekick, Playstation, Walkman, Plasma TV, or Gameboy. I’m still not on xbox live. I can barely use email not to mention excel. I’m a slow-to-adopt, wait-for-the-second-generation-after-probably-20% of the population-has-already-adopted-it kind of person. It was the same for me with Twitter. After getting tired of reading every other post on Techcrunch being about this Twitter thing, I gave it a shot. And fairly quickly, I was hooked. So why did I finally get into it? Like Roelof Botha from Sequoia once said at a conference, a consumer facing startup needs to appeal to one of the 7 deadly sins. And Twitter not surprisingly appeals to quite a few.
What are the 7 cardinal vices, you might be innocently asking? Wikipedia reminds me that they are Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride. But how do these apply to Twitter’s appeal?
Well, first, Twitter is all about Pride. It’s a form of micro-exhibitionism, where people want to show that they are interesting, doing interesting things, or following and or being followed by interesting people. As you may have felt, a lot of the big blogger dudes/dudettes seem almost bully-esque on the web with their high powered blogs, linkedin profiles, and facebook/twitter action dominating the social noise meter. On Twitter, they (and some of them are friends of mine) sorta remind me of the kids sitting at the “cool table” at lunch in high school deciding what is in and what’s not, and I mean that in a somewhat complementary way 🙂 Twitter is great for publicly displaying how cool you are or how much you know. Since I know so little, it’s also easy to showcase your humility.
Twitter is also about Sloth (for me at least, maybe not for prolific posters like Guy who apparently was one of the cool kids in high school). Blogging was always too thought-intensive for me, and I was basically too lazy to really give it a serious shot. In a similar vein as to why I never got a tattoo, I could also rarely think of anything so important to me that I’d be willing to write it and have it hanging around the interwebs forever. Twitter is great since my biggest struggle with it is trying to figure out which characters to cut out so I can fit under the post limit or whether or not to cross the line and tweet about bodily functions.
Envy is also a factor for Twitter-ers. How many times have you stumbled upon some random person’s profile on Twitter and been amazed by how many people follow them? I don’t even think I know 100 people let alone have 100 followers. It’s hard being one of the “little people” on the web, but hey at least I can walk down University Ave in Palo Alto and not get swarmed by faithful admirers. (Editor’s Note: Brian happily lives in Boston where he assures you it is possible to start a *cool* technology company. He mentions University Ave & Palo Alto because he thinks it sounds more hip and Visible Measures does have a small office there).
In some ways, you could make the argument that Twitter also appeals to people’s feelings of Greed. People want more followers, more information, and more attention. I wouldn’t mind some more money too, but as Twitter is doing themselves, I’m still searching for a personal Twitter business model.
Lust and Wrath are interesting sins. There have been reports of Twitter romances and dalliances, even people getting briefly outed due to their improper use of dm instead of “d” for direct messaging someone. And then there’s the customary self-Wrath that often follows acts of carelessness like these or anger against someone who has tweeted something less than pleasant about you. Since no one knows who I am, it’s easy to steer clear of the fray. I’m a wallflower at the Twitter Ball (at least I try to be self-aware!). If you’re Arrington or one of the guys who seems to get up for conflict like a guy in the UFC, then Twitter can be a good way to voice strong opinions publicly and wait for the repercussions, er discussions that follow.
When it comes to Gluttony, I think it’s a bit of a stretch but you could say that people on Twitter are feasting from the notoriety gained and the insights gleaned, or they are just plain overweight from eating too much real life food and sitting behind a computer all the time (me).
No matter which sin has dragged you in, you can be sure you are not alone. And the great thing about Twitter is that whatever your faults, you can share them with others! They may stop following you though 🙂