I never really used Twitter much before moving to Saigon in 2010. Before that, Twitter was mainly my medium for updating my Facebook status from my old (and decidedly un-smart) phone via text message. Over a couple years in Saigon, however, I came to rely on Twitter as a place to get recommendations on where to find things and how to get stuff done. One specific example is this: In the midst of one workday, I felt like a turkey sandwich. Don’t know why, but I just felt like one. I posted that thought on Twitter, and a few people got back to me about where they’d found decent turkey sandwiches in Saigon, and that evening I had a turkey sandwich for dinner.
Being in another country and culture, Twitter was a way for us expatriates in the city and the nation converse with each other about our ups and downs and where to find a decent hamburger too. It was pretty nice tool for a place with no large online resources and a culture where a substantial amount of getting things done relies on who you know.
With an above average number of intelligent and tactful users, Twitter for expatriates in Vietnam was great. And when we learned that we would be moving to the U.S., I was hoping to find a place in the Twitter community in Eugene, Oregon too. I started out by following a few folks I found through searching, including a few local companies too, but there is a completely different attitude regarding Twitter in the liberal Northwest in the Land of the Free.
My takeaways so far have been this: There are a lot of people who call themselves “social media experts” and seriously just flood Twitter with posts, retweets and links so that it just clogs up my flow and I can’t stand it. Being in a university town, there are lots of college students on Twitter too. Let’s just say that I’m glad I didn’t have Twitter when I was in college, otherwise my silly moodiness would’ve been captured forever by the Library of Congress. The local companies that I tried following just further flood Twitter with links and stupid questions in the lame attempt to “engage” people through this medium.
What was a very helpful tool in a foreign land is exactly the opposite in the land where it was invented. There seems to be a purposeful effort to not engage with others on Twitter without ulterior motives and I have yet to find a community of users even slightly like what I experienced in Vietnam. Oddly enough, I now use Twitter to keep up with people in Vietnam more that I use it to find out what is happening around me locally.
So there you have it. A common online service which became immensely helpful as I explored the largest city in Indochina has become basically a tool for keeping up with those awesome users back there who initially drew me to Twitter in the first place.