I could feel my brief career as a tweeter winding down a few Sundays ago, in the evening, on the couch, when instead of relaxing after a busy weekend of actual life, I had to tend to my virtual one.
Get on twitter.com, I told myself. Increase your Web presence, your online clout (as measured by klout.com). Drive some traffic to tampabay.com, you lazy bum, and create some synergy.
So, here's what I came up with: Spanish needle, a weedy wildflower, sure is common this time of year. … I know where you can almost always hear the call of bobwhite quail. … Don't those NFL replacement referees stink? … And, please, check out this great story by one of my co-workers.
This took me nearly an hour, much of it taken up with shuttling to and from the different computer windows required to post my awful Blackberry photograph of Spanish needle and to attach several links, all of which I had to first compress at tinyurl.com.
Granted, my plans for that time of week usually involve beer and sinking deeply into couch cushions. But it's always been my time, and on Twitter it's not. I stare at a screen, my own personal screen, which is how I — like many of you, no doubt — spend most of my work week. I don't talk to my family about a football game or a 60 Minutes story. I don't get to just chill. And I don't get paid.
This trade-off would be acceptable if I were sending droves of readers to the newspaper's website and my columns, which is how Twitter was sold to me by some of the more plugged-in employees of the Times.
Don't get bogged down following other newspapers or caught up in the circle of tweeters at the Times, they told me. Follow people in your community, and you will learn things and raise your profile.
I'm sure that works for reporters with national beats and even those in communities with younger residents who are big social media contributors and consumers.
But there aren't too many people to follow in Hernando, I quickly found out, and I've gotten more tips at one lunch in a busy restaurant than I have in my entire time on Twitter.
Not many followers either. After keeping up a fairly regular tweeting schedule for a couple of months and ending nearly every one of my columns with my twitter address, I've accumulated a total of 74 followers. My Klout score, on a scale of 0 to 100, is a woeful 10.
The printed paper, on the other hand, gets into about 30,000 Hernando homes on Sundays. A column on the Web can sometimes generate more comments than I have Twitter followers.
So this is not an old-timer's complaint about online communication, which even the oldest of us knows is the future.
It's more about the form. I like starting with the seed of an idea, researching it, thinking it over, then publishing it in print or online in the best possible shape. I don't much like just posting the seed, as is.
Nor do I particularly like reading such posts, which is why the only tweets I appreciated were the ones that linked to full-fledged stories or columns.
Plugs like the one for the excellent Sports Illustrated story about Michael Jordan and his high school basketball coach by Times alum Thomas Lake? I'll check my feed every once in a while just to make sure I catch them.
An observation about parenthood from one of my many friends who are parents? I actually take delight in missing them.
At this point, I can't say for sure that I've tweeted my last tweet. If it really becomes a community roundtable — one-liners crackling — I'll grab a seat.
But for now, I'll keep writing my online-only column on Mondays, and on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays you can follow me at tampabay.com or in the good old Hernando Times.
And if you really feel the need to see some Spanish needle, you can always go outside and take a look.