First, check out the latest social networking stats:
Facebook: 901 million monthly users of Facebook as of March 2012 (http://newsroom.fb.com/content/default.aspx?NewsAreaId=22)
Twitter: 175 million Twitter user accounts as of March 31, 2011 (http://tinyurl.com/7cuh9d8)
WordPress: over 73 million sites (not necessarily users) 5/4/2012, (http://en.wordpress.com/stats/)
Tumblr: 46.2 million blog sites (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tumblr) Feb 2012
Cool infographic: http://www.jeffbullas.com/2011/09/02/20-stunning-social-media-statistics/
Twitter poetry: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/20/weekinreview/20twitterature.html
Through these statistics, I can take a guess that you probably have one of these types of accounts or even all four, like me. These are the main sites for social networking, blogging, writing short captions, and posting photos, infographics, and videos. This is visual and oral storytelling at its finest.
That’s right–storytelling. Through blogs, the story may be more obvious; it’s how the writer gets from A to B and shares an opinion or tells something about his or her day. Twitter and Facebook allow for as-you-go storytelling. The story unravels as your day goes on, and, not only are these stories about you and your friends, but you get your friends’ contributions, making your page or wall a virtual scrapbook of your day, week, month, and year.
Twitter and Facebook provide the most challenge when it comes to writing. The limit on Twitter is 140 characters, and Facebook’s is a little bit longer. Yes, this may tempt a writer to cut letters out of words (please don’t!), but the true test is how to convey information, whether it’s a miniscule story or a link to something bigger, in this small space. There’s even Twitter poetry (see link above)!
Rules are awesome in creative writing (yes), and limiting your work to 140 characters is a great rule to impose. It makes you consider each word very carefully. Dynamic verbs become very important, and silly adverbs get crumpled and tossed. The same needs to be done in sharp prose (long, free forms of writing like stories, books, and essays) as well as in free-form and form poetry. “Free” still suggests constraints that you as the writer create. You create rules when you start a sentence with a certain rhythm or, especially, when you ask a question. Someone must answer (ideally). You’re establishing rules and usually following them all the time, even when talking.
Yes, “Tweeting” can make you a better writer. Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr are more geared toward being illustrative and resourceful, too. What blogs do you want your readers to read? What do you want potential clients to see? How can you best promote you or your friends’ work? Pictures and videos help to make these points, sell these products, and tell these stories.
Tumblr is intended as a short-form blog site, though longer, word-based blogs are certainly allowed. Thumbnailed, quick reads and pictures are encouraged–these are easier to flip through and then move away from. Naturally, Tumblr would want you to do this, as it encourages you to read more of its users blogs and convince more people to join into the conversation as a whole.
Last on my list is WordPress, which is the most obvious writing-oriented blog. Longer, text-based posts are encouraged, but it’s also easy to provide readers with pictures and videos. Again, writing a blog not only encourages longer nonfiction and journalistic writing (and fiction, I suppose), but it also helps you compose a larger story of your life and to write, write, write.
Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. Always choose words carefully, consider your tone, and enjoy yourself when you write. Join in the conversation and invite others into yours–see what web of stories you can weave together!