“Dad, what is twitter?” a seemingly small and very simple question. This was four years ago, coming from my son who was then 10 years old.There we embarked upon the starting point of one of the most fascinating conversations that we’ve ever had till date. It was a huge challenge. Initially I told him that I needed a day to get back to him so that I could gather information and wit to answer him.
Then the fun began! I started out and searched YouTube, Google, everywhere! Then I dug into my english skills and convincing abilities. I wrote, re-wrote and thought and re-thought. After almost giving up thrice and getting exasperated to the core, I told myself that I am ready, then we sat down. Here is how it went
Son: So what is twitter?
Me: It is like this big party where a lot of people come in. Some say something, some do something, others follow and listen
Son: Sounds like a crowded place
Me: Yes it is, millions of people there and they keep coming and going as they please
Son: So what do you talk about?
Me: Anything under the sun, some people share jokes, some people share knowledge, some people just listen and gather information
Son: That sounds like my class at school
Me: Yeah, sort of. If we really like what someone shares, we repeat it to our followers and that is called a retweet. When I retweet somebody, even those who don’t know him/her but know only me get to know what he/she said
Me: There are people who share links. These are pointing to other places with more information.
Son: Like we share the shelf numbers of interesting books in the library?
Me: Exactly like that!
Son: Who are the popular people there?
Me: There are people who are already popular and they get on twitter to expand it. There are also ordinary people like me, who become popular because they share good information consistently.
Son: How do you know you are popular?
Me: By counting the number of followers I have and the number of retweets and mentions I get. Then there are sites like Klout and Peerindex that will measure this and rank me.
Son: Like grades in my class!
Me: Yep! Exactly!
Son: What do you do with irritating people there?
Me: We block them and move on, if they are very offensive and indecent we report them and get them suspended!
Son: So twitter is just like school/class and the only difference is that there are more grown ups there and you guys fight and argue just like us, right?
Me: That is one way to look at it, but I must say that you people are far more mature than many people I know on twitter! Then there are the brands and newspapers and TV Channels
Son: Whoa! Let’s talk brands and all that later Dad. I got what I needed
And thus ended that nice conversation. Like it? How would you explain twitter to a child? Tell me in the comments below