Twitter is a hugely popular social media site. There’s something appealing about schmoozing with total strangers in 140 character increments. As an introvert, it fits my comfort level. But what about face-to-face interactions? Could Twitter teach the socially-awkward something about communicating in person? Based on what I’ve observed on the site, here are my top ten do’s and don’ts for making a connection in the flesh.
1 Do get to the point when talking. With 140 characters, there’s little room for idle chit-chat. On behalf of introverts everywhere, I’ve decided to make this a rule. Get to the point. Nobody wants to hear everything going on in your head. Just the highlights.
2. Don’t share highly personal information with people you don’t know. Would you approach a group of strangers and blurt out the details about your parents’ divorce? Would you turn to the person squeezed next to you on the subway and tell them you have a cyst on your ovary? No. Why? Because they don’t know you. And they don’t know what to do with that information. It’s best to keep your interactions with strangers light, funny, or helpful. Don’t bleed in the lap of someone you’ve just met.
3. Don’t expect to have meaningful conversations when you’re in a room packed with 1,650 people who are all shouting at the same time.
4. Do shut up occasionally, and wander amongst those 1,650 people, and listen. When you hear something interesting (and you will, eventually), tag the person who said it, draw them to the side, and respond.
5. Don’t approach every person you meet, tell them you’ve just published a book and it’s available on Amazon, and then walk away. People will start to avoid you.
6, 7 and 8. Do expect to capture the attention of, oh, say a publisher, if you have 5,000 people following you around every day. Especially if they’re eager to pay for whatever wisdom you choose to emit. But don’t pretend that you know anything about those 5,000 people, except maybe the dozen disciples in the closest proximity who can actually hear what you’re saying. Those stragglers in the back? They’re eventually going to stop following you, because hey, where’s the joy in following someone you can’t even see or hear? Don’t take it personally when those stragglers disappear.
9. Don’t expect to feel nourished when walking past a line of people who have exactly one second to tell you something important. That’s about as fulfilling as trying to read a constantly changing Twitter feed. Real nourishment comes from having a one-on-one conversation, sharing meaningful ideas.
10. Don’t be surprised if people take offense when they can’t engage you in conversation. As an equivalent to lining up tweets on HootSuite, theoretically you could wake up early, leave a voicemail or text on the cell phone of everyone you know, and assume that at some point during the day, probably while you’re working your nine-to-five desk job, they’ll hear that message. Alternatively, you could place a cardboard cutout of yourself on every street corner, spouting a tape-recorded monologue. While this technique may be highly appealing to introverts, it doesn’t foster a connection with others. Still, it’s highly appealing. On second thought, let’s make this a do.