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I always love using softballs as the perfect metaphor to describe how writers should react when somebody posts a comment or asks a question on the Internet.

In the real sport of softball, the pitcher who throws the ball is aiming purposely at one specific hitter. The intention is for that one hitter to hit the ball to play the game. Now, imagine a different scenario involving random people throwing softballs on the Internet. Each person who pitches is wearing plain clothes, they could be a man or woman. They are ethnic, they can be of any age, they can be wearing distinctive clothes, they might have different types of jobs, etc. The variety of pitchers is endless.

Now picture the process of throwing the softball on the Internet. The pitcher begins the process of throwing a ball, but it’s not aimed at any particular hitter. In fact, each pitch comes forth in slow motion, allowing for one or multiple hitters to hit that one ball. While one pitcher’s ball is up in the air, so many hitters have access to that one ball. That ball has the potential of splitting, like an atom, into millions of tiny pieces if multiple hitters choose to hit it simultaneously.

Interestingly, neither the pitcher nor the hitter has to know each other to play this game of softball on the Internet. This kind of softball as I’m describing is not an organized sport and there are no winners or losers – – just participants. Each player plays independently and has the unique ability to keep that one ball up in the air for long periods of time, depending on if or how they choose to react to that ball.

Because I’m talking about playing softball on the Internet, it is very likely that one ball thrown by one pitcher may not make much of an impact at all. Once the ball is thrown, the universe will not necessarily react. All is quiet. That ball lands on the ground without contact or meaning until someone either picks it up or starts anew with a fresh ball.

Who are the hitters and why do they want to hit the ball? Well, you don’t have to hit softballs if you don’t want to. Lots of people are spectators part of a larger audience that sit in front of their screens in amazement watching balls be thrown and hit like a pitching machine gone berserk. That kind of participation is okay. There is always a learning experience even when we don’t pitch or hit actively.

On those occasions when you choose to be a pitcher or a hitter, magic happens. And here is where the true metaphor begins. Hopefully, you will catch my drift.

Still talking about playing softball on the Internet, imagine the physical softball is made out of a soft material, like hollow chocolate. A person who chooses to pitch takes one wrapped, hollow chocolate ball and throws it out there to no one in particular. Inside that chocolate ball is a question on a piece of paper.

The chocolate ball itself is not important and won’t be eaten because it is just a vehicle of transmission, like a homing pigeon. The real point is to figure out whether a pitcher’s chocolate ball question will generate a reaction or response by whomever chooses to receive the ball.

Imagine a person who has a question about virtually anything (pick a topic!) and writes it down on a piece of paper. The person inserts the paper in a hollow chocolate ball, wraps it, and tosses it in the air, choosing to pitch it on the Internet to anyone who happens to be available to catch it. Who’s going to catch the ball and what will happen with that question?

That is a mystery about Internet softball best answered by talking about Twitter, a social media platform that allows people to follow other people, access their posts or conversations, and like, respond, or forward those posts to others. Each conversation is called a tweet and is limited to 280 characters. The types of tweets and the people who post them are exactly as varied and unique as fingerprints themselves.

I can do an entire blog post on the inner workings of Twitter. For now, hopefully all of you reading this blog post understand the basic nature of how Twitter works. That will help you to understand the Internet softball / hollow chocolate ball / paper question metaphor / analogy much better.

On Twitter, people may post general comments or questions known as tweets. These are things that people post and send out to the universe, or as it is referred to on Twitter, to the Twitterverse, without knowing whether one or more people will respond to that comment or question.

Can you believe that phenomenon? I like to refer to Twitter posts (tweets) as “solo conversations.” Why on earth would anyone ever waste their precious time using a social media platform where it is perfectly acceptable and normal to post tweets that are essentially private conversations with themselves in a public forum?

In the days of Shakespeare, Twitter did not exist, obviously, but people still spoke to themselves. It was considered an accepted art form back then! In those days, when Hamlet stated as a soliloquy “To be or not to be,” trust me, he wasn’t kidding around! That was a serious and creative art form in which a character from a play spoke to himself. The audience participated by listening (or reading)!

Twitter is not that educational in the sense that people will pay to be the audience of erudite conversations. However, the audience still exists and people read solo conversations every single day. Happens all the time.

I’ve used Twitter for many years, but fairly recently, decided to change things up and create a Twitter profile dedicated to my writing career. I started following a bunch of people and groups, all somehow related to writing.

I had been enjoying seeing peoples’ tweets and since I treat every single one of those tweets as softballs, I always have the choice to hit those softballs by responding or allow those softballs to fall on the ground by not responding.

Many of those softballs have been exquisitely fine European-tasting chocolate balls containing interesting commentaries and questions. Those softball tweets have made me stop and think and pause and reflect. I really appreciate when the softballs give me a prime opportunity to add my opinion. I feel like I’m exercising my brain and whipping myself to think, research, or write about what is being commented or asked.

It’s great practice for me as a writer and really gets my mind flowing with creative ideas. This is just one of the reasons why I love and appreciate Twitter. That is also why I feel writers should do as I do and get into the habit of actively being the hitter in Internet softball tweets.

In the photo below, you’ll see how I responded to a publication’s innocent chocolate softball commentary. Do you like how I responded? Do you understand what I was trying to say?

Amanda Socci posts a Twitter reply using a pop culture reference!

I am a HUGE fan of pop culture. Hope you enjoyed my long and artistic explanation of how I view tweets and what I feel tweets do to people, especially writers.

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3 years ago

“Twitter is not that educational in the sense that people will pay to be the audience of erudite conversations.”
This statement resonates with me! I’m working on moving away from academic conventions, and your softball analogy is a great way for me to imagine an audience. Very enlightening post and well-written. Thank you!

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