Find 100 things to say

I lost a bet recently, and soon it’ll be time to pay up. I bet my friend Amy Senger that she couldn’t go a week without using Twitter. She’s such a prolific tweeter as @sengseng that I thought there was no way she could give it up, even temporarily.

But she did, and since turnabout is fair play she gets to dictate that I do something outside my comfort zone. According to the terms of the bet I have to tweet 100 times in a single day. This daunts me; I’ve posted to Twitter fewer than 800 times since opening my @amcafee account, so 100 sounds like a lot. I really have no idea what all I’ll tweet about, so this post is an appeal for help on that front.

What territory should I cover in my forced march of tweeting? According to the terms of the bet, my #andyasks question and ensuing replies count toward to the total, but they won’t get me close to 100. There’s a lot of room left; please leave comments with your ideas about how to fill it.  I’m all ears.

And I have to add a postscript to this post:

The one thing I won’t be tweeting about is the minutiae of my day. I’ve felt the urge to do so, and have succumbed to it a couple times, but I’ve promised myself not to do any more such tweets. Because I can’t see how they’re anything except blind and bland narcissism, and therefore simply without value.

As I unfortunately demonstrated, I understand the lure of using Twitter and the other 2.0 platforms to talk about oneself. After all, don’t we all consider ourselves to be deeply interesting people? But look at the following tweets, which were pulled with very little effort from the recent Twitterverse:

Waking up mid-afternoon FTW”

my head hurts.”

just sittin here… watching a little tv

pretty much ‘cleaned up’ my facebook”

Getting dressed for a wedding”

Honestly, don’t these sound like dialog from one of Sartre‘s less optimistic plays? Don’t they fail the test of “Does the world need or want to know this?” The response to this argument, of course, is “Just don’t follow people whose updates are not interesting to you.” But I follow a lot of people because I’m hoping that many things they say will be interesting. Since Twitter is inherently oriented around people rather than topics, I get all tweets from those I follow. And their narration of their own lives clutters up my “All Friends” column on Tweetdeck.

No one stops by my office, calls me, emails me, or texts me with updates like the ones above. Nor have I met anyone who’s confessed to emailing or texting their entire social circle every x minutes with “here’s what’s going on with me now” updates. So I’m really puzzled about why this is an acceptable and popular use of Twitter. If someone could explain it to me, I’d really appreciate it (and I don’t mean that facetiously). My guess is that this behavior arises mainly because it’s so fast and easy to compose and send a tweet, but if there’s more going on please explain it to me.

Am I wrong that just a little self-policing against narcissism would increase the value of the Twitterverse immensely? I think all of us fans of this technology would do well to keep in mind Voltaire’s insight that “The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” Admiral Hyman Rickover, the father of America’s nuclear navy, quoted the admonition of an ‘unknown sage’ that “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.” So what kinds of minds discuss themselves?

At its best Twitter is a novel and unparalleled way to meet, connect with, and share good stuff with other people. At its worst, it reminds me of the great story from the evil geniuses at The Onion: “Women now Empowered by Everything a Woman Does.”

If you see me confusing narcissism with empowerment, citizenship, helpfulness, or useful sharing during my day of 100 tweets (the date of which will be announced in advance), please call me on it. And if I’m being blind or unkind with these thoughts, please let me know.