Gwen’s Take: Entering the ‘Twitterverse’

BY Gwen Ifill  July 16, 2010 at 11:40 AM EDT

You see, that headline is what I’ve always hated about Twitter.

It’s way too cute.

But, alas, I have been lured in.

My first week on Twitter has been enlightening, funny and a little creepy.

You have to understand first that I have long been a firm anti-Twitterer. Life and news is complicated enough to explain without limiting yourself to 140 characters. Plus, I generally have less than zero interest in the eating, dieting and work day habits of people I have never met.

Yet, and still…

I was persuaded to join Twitter, not by the online folks at @washingtonweek and @newshour — who have politely been pleading with me to spread myself a little more thinly by joining the tweet brigade – but by smart people who use the service to expand, not shrink their understanding of news and public affairs.

So when Amy Walter @HotlineEditor, and David Chalian @davidchalian – two savvy political observers – told me how they use it – to aggregate and keep up with news from sources they trust – I thought I’d give it a try.

Within hours of signing up last week, I had hundreds of followers – most of them strangers who sent me cheery “Welcome to Twitter” messages. The sudden rush of goodwill threw me off a bit, so I responded cautiously, letting everyone know in a single tweet that I just planned to stick my toe in.

The very next morning, a well-dressed young man approached me at a local coffee shop to tell me I should not be so shy. But then he went on to share with me the dangers of Twitter – over-sharing being the most noxious among them.

One pal I decided to “follow” immediately began flooding me with his random thoughts, retweets about issues I don’t care about, and even pictures of the golf course where he happened to be playing at that moment. I promptly “unfollowed” him.

Another, a smart political reporter, opts for the stream-of-conscious observational mode. But I have my own stream of consciousness to keep up with. I can’t possibly accommodate his as well.

I am assured by people who are addicted to this that, with a few judicious tweaks and snips, I can train my Twitter feed to work for me. I know a lot of smart people (yes, I’m talking to you @ktumulty and @johndickerson), so generally I can learn a lot.

But Twitter is a dangerous place if you have an obsessive streak. Click, refresh. It’s addictive. Good thing I have two jobs. It keeps me from getting in too deep. (But notice how short my sentences have gotten?)

You can follow me @pbsgwen.

This entry is cross-posted on the Washington Week website. Watch on Friday as Gwen and her panel discuss sweeping financial reform, midterm election prospects for Democrats, the economic downturn and the war in Afghanistan.