Twitter and I go way back, which is funny to say. If there’s anything the fast talking social network has never handled well, it’s history.
Twitter is caught in the moment. A million takes on a moment, sure. But when the moment moves on, so does Twitter.
Twitter last week gave all its users access to their Twitter archive. Their entire Twitter archive. For early arrivals like me, that’s nearly six or seven years of thoughts that danced their dance and left the stage. Finding old tweets meant digging down the posts in your stream — load by tiny automatic load. Now Twitter’s hauled up the soil, and not just in an easy Web-viewable index. The tweets come dressed in data friendly formats analytics nerds will love.
No way Twitter’s captured all of you. But if you’ve been there for years— as yourself — you won’t be able to shake the feeling, as you open your archive, that you’re on a mission of self-discovery. One that was never this casual or possible. Its significance might be fuzzy, hidden in posts about what you eat and where you go, but it’s so very there.
When you load your archive you see blue bars containing each month’s tweets along the right. They made me think of mountaintops some thrill seeking explorer sees for the first time.
So. Where to start?
I’ve never loved the idea of analytics for “personal brand strategy” in spaces that work best when everyone’s just being themselves. But a reflective description that doesn’t assign a maddening score based on my activity I can handle.
I dropped my archive into the Leermakers’ tool and gave it a go.
The result was fun to see, and felt … right. “Coffee” is among my most tweeted words. I barely touch the stuff, but they’re a second home, my favorite places to cross paths with people. Reporting on “seattle” — another top term — when I first moved here made the city a constant topic of exploration.
My most tweeted word reminds me how little of what I do I do myself. It’s “thanks.”
I couldn’t help but zoom in to key moments, good and bad. My wedding. The day the Seattle P-I went up for sale. The first time I opened the door to my own house. One-hundred forty characters carries a lot of weight.
Nor could I help but compare my Twitter history to Twitter’s own.
The day after Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) and CNN (@cnnbrk) fought their epic first-to-1-million-follower Twitter war and Oprah joined the site, I tweeted a why-not walk from Belltown to Fremont. The day before, I shared three pictures of three dresses and asked which I should wear to the Seattle Fashion Show.
The month Twitter hit 100 million active users — September 2011 — I posted the most tweets of any month before or since: 835.
I’ve come a long way since October 2007, the first month I tweeted in earnest. (My lone tweet in April of that year can’t possibly count.) Seventeen posts and I actually answered Twitter’s first question, “What are you doing?”
“drinking earl grey” and “heading to work,” among other, terribly boring things.
Some trends brought up questions. With 5,807 tweets, 2011 was my top Twitter year. Why did I tweet 1,400 times less in 2012? Less even than in 2010?
That made me think about the filter that’s kicked in as I’ve crafted my almost 19,000 tweets. We all have one. Mine has evolved, but has always been a cocktail of the following questions: Am I tweeting too much? Too little? Am I too personal? Too professional? Too serious? Too fun? Twitter may not reflect all you are, but it does reflect what you show to the world. If I’m honest, “being myself” never came easy. Why should it, when life shifts daily, and identity is never as stable as we pretend?
Seeing years of tweets made those questions silly. One tweet or another may seem off. But take a step back and it’s always a clearer picture.
Browsing my archive from the back corner of one of my neighborhood coffee shops, I found myself tweeting just a little more than I would have been. About the cops who’d bantered with barista. A new app I tried out. The Twitter treasure hunt itself. Going through my timeline was giving me an appreciation of everything Twitter’s been over nearly a fifth of my life.
I’ve never kept a diary for more than a couple months. I posted in-the-moment updates to Twitter. But this?
This, clearly, is history.