by | Apr 24, 2010 and the online Twitter tribePeople I talk to look at me strangely when the subject of social media comes up. “Facebook,” someone might say, grimacing. “My kids do that, I think. Not for me, thanks.” A shake of the head.

“Well,” I say, “I spend a lot more time on Twitter than Facebook. It’s a great way to meet . . .”

“What the hell do I want to know what somebody had for lunch?” An incredulous laugh.

These people are not in the tribe. The tribe of people connected through the hours spent at a computer, reaching out to other people sitting at other computers. Living rooms. Dorm rooms. Library carrels. Internet cafes. Offices, dens, laptops, iPhones, iPads, Blackberrys, the whole big neural net.

  • If I want to tell someone about the neat trick I pulled off ranking one of my blog posts at number 1 on Google for one of my favorite long-tail keywords, I need a member of the tribe.
  • If I want to find a really good ecommerce vendor who can cashier payments, act nice with my email vendor and doesn’t charge an arm and a leg, I need a member of my tribe, they’ll know.
  • If I want to get my blog performing better and looking more like a blog should, I need another blogger, that is, a member of the tribe.
  • It’s a tribe of reciprocity. People help each other more than in any other venture I’ve been a part of.
  • It’s a tribe of giving, because we’ve all drunk the kool ade and have the giving mindset firmly in place as a first principle.
  • It’s a tribe of achievement. Members of this tribe are on a nonstop quest to better themselves, their income, their readership, their influence, their authority and their authenticity. As soon as they find out their one true niche.
  • This tribe is empowered. I meet them in the self-publishing trenches, around the blogs, in forums, LinkedIn discussions, over at the Third Tribe headquarters, and all points in between.
  • They are searching for meaning, for a place in the world, for the perfect domain name and a shot at immortality. We’ve grown up—or grown older—as the internet has matured.
  • Twitter is the closest thing to a brain this tribe has. On Twitter I can meet and immediately identify other members of the tribe. They’re informed. They’re opinionated, if you don’t mind. They’re passionate about wanting passion in their lives.
  • They tweet like songbirds, like telegraph machines, like drunken sailors. They tweet Rumi and Jung and Rodney Dangerfield in quick succession.
  • They tweet hope, and outrage, and links to the 7 keys to a successful book launch.
  • Tweets arrive at all hours of the day and night. Bored? Got two minutes while you wait for the carpool? The tweets are flowing, robust, demanding, selling, informing, whole novels in 140 characters.

And when I’ve had my fill, I can set my feed to “public” and just stand in the waves of languages, cultures, interests, concerns and endless endless human stories cascading over me in an ecstasy of info-flow.

Okay, now you know. Go play with your kids.

Image: / Guttorm Flatabø

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Henry Hyde

    Being a writer can be a lonely business (says the man who has barely seen daylight for weeks whilst doing the final edit of his first non-fiction book). The online community, however, has always been there for me, understanding and not minding when I go quiet for a while, and welcoming me back when I emerge, blinking, into the digital sunlight. The regular tweets by you, Joel, and other leading voices are like the dawn chorus, reminding me that there is life outside my little cell and that there are, in fact, others who genuinely care about the success of complete strangers.

    Thank you.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Thanks for being part of the conversation, Henry, it wouldn’t be the same without you.

  2. Joel

    Thanks David, I appreciate it. Quite a phenomenon, huh?

  3. David

    Great post Joel, Thanks for saying what the collective tribe is thinking!

  4. Joel

    Marla it’s also amazing how it keeps adapting and getting better in many ways. Apparently 70% of the traffic on Twitter is coming from third-party applications, and it’s still in its youth. Thanks for your comment.

  5. Marla

    Great post, Joel! Yes, it’s difficult to describe the joy and great information gleaned from Twitter. People who aren’t in the know just think it’s a waste of time, but it’s far from it!

    • Elena

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  6. Michael N. Marcus

    I knew someone like that.

    from “Stories I’d Tell My Children (but maybe not until they’re adults)”

    Chapter 50
    Yakkity Yak, Don’t Talk Back

    For several years, my wife had an extremely talkative and extremely annoying friend. Louise would talk to anyone about anything at any time, and it made absolutely no difference if the other person had no time to listen or no interest in the subject.

    She’d often call at 11 p.m. with a report of the day’s activities, complete with every real or imagined insult from co-workers, relatives, storekeepers and strangers, and full details of every one of her biological functions.

    Louise would call again at seven in the morning with a rehash of the previous day’s activities, plus her nocturnal emissions, remissions, secretions, defecations and expulsions of pus, phlegm, mucus, blood clots, earwax and other bodily fluids, solids and gases.

    Louise was obsessed with the functions of the human body — especially her own body — and, upon first meeting her and hearing her initial medical report, one might think she was a doctor, or at least a medical student.

    She actually had planned to become a doctor, but halfway through medical school, she discovered that blood made her vomit. So, rather than treat bleeding patients, she left medical school and her life’s work became talking about her own blood and vomit.

    Louise assumed that everyone she met was deeply interested in her innermost functions.

    It was not unusual for her to tell men — even on a first date — about the gory details of her most recent menstruation. They seldom asked her out again.

    I didn’t hate Louise, but I certainly found her annoying and often disgusting, and I resented all the time she was taking from my wife for absolutely no useful purpose.

    I found one cool way to get back at her.

    She was one of just two people who called us with blocked Caller ID.
    If the phone rang at 11 p.m. or 7 a.m. and the screen on the phone said “restricted,” I’d pick up the handset and say “Hello, Louise.” She knew I was in the phone business and so she assumed I had some special equipment that was able to override her privacy feature, and she got really pissed off (but probably not as pissed off as I was about her twice-daily calls about nothing).

    One New Years Eve we went out to dinner with Louise and Harry, her boyfriend. (Originally Louise told us that Harry was her husband, but that’s another story.)

    We went to a Japanese restaurant, and had to wait about a half hour for our table. Three of us went to the bar, but Louise stayed at the coat check room. She treated the unfortunate coat checker to her life story, complete with details about every pimple, rash, abrasion, contusion, splinter, hangnail, allergic reaction, cramp, belch, fart, manicure, pedicure, prescription, diagnosis, misdiagnosis, urination, bowel movement, psycho-analysis, chiropractic adjustment and surgical procedure.

    When we were notified that our table was ready, we went to get Louise and we learned that the coat checker did not understand English.

    He didn’t know how lucky he was.

  7. Joel

    Hey Michael, I guess you can be a member of several tribes. I knew one woman whose drive to “communicate” was so strong we used to joke that you could paint a face on a wall and she would just talk to that, saving the rest of us a lot of time. But is it really communication? My Aunt Ann would start talking when she heard someone coming up the stairs to her apartment, even though she rarely knew who it was. Oh well. Thanks for checking in.

  8. Joel

    India, you’re right about that. Some of my favorites recently are the “novel in 140 characters” or tweet-fiction writers. Quite an art form. Thanks for visiting!

  9. Michael N. Marcus

    >>I need a member of the tribe.<<

    Of course, many members of the tribe are also Members Of the Tribe.

    ("MOTs" tend to be yentas, with an compulsion to communicate. First was books, then newspapers, magazines, movies, radio, TV, and now empowered with cellphones, websites, blogs, tweets, Facebook, email and texting. My wife doesn't use the web or texting, but she does talk to herself when I won't listen. She also has long conversations with dogs, and she's only a half-MOT.)

    Explanation for non-MOTS:

    Michael N. Marcus
    — Independent Self-Publishers Alliance,
    — "Become a Real Self-Publisher: Don’t be a Victim of a Vanity Press"
    — "Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults)"

  10. India Drummond

    The “what someone had for lunch” comment is the one I hear most often from people who have vaguely heard of Twitter, but never taken the time to actually look at it. Even the newbiest of the newbie Twitterati know that’s the surest way to get unfollowed!


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