Twitter is the new Cocaine. Some advice on how to love and learn from your new bad habit.

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Amazon and others are repeatedly and intentionally activating one of your primal fears. They are pressing your buttons again and again until they get you to start pressing your own buttons. They lead you to believe that you are missing out on something. They have you thinking you will be able to find what you are looking for with just one more click. You can't help yourself. When you post a cool tweet, you want to know who responds. When you bring up the Twitter screen, you first check to see how many followers you have and then click on your friends and rivals pages to see how many people are loving following them and not you.

Phil Yanov's Facebook profileThese social websites reward your clicks with more information about your friends, about you, and about what your friends say they think about you. It's information you just can't get enough of.  It's like taking personality tests and getting feedback on every answer as you answer. You click yes I like "Fight Club" and poof, you find out five of your friends say they like it too. We are all taking the test, and all answering the questions, and all learning more about ourselves and each other.

What's the win?  We get to explore what we're thinking while testing our ideas on others in a relatively safe environment.  We don't just think we learn more about ourselves, we actually do.  We take our assumptions, allow our friends to take a look at them, and gauge their responses. Sure, this system isn't perfect, but the feedback we get costs us nothing and that means we get to test again and again until we arrive at something that works.

This need to find ways to figure out what we are thinking, what our friends are thinking, and to explore the previously untapped resources within our network of friends is deep seated. These social network have found a way to deliver a running commentary on the way we live our lives instantly, cheaply, and in bulk.

The people who own the systems that help us make these explorations are already rich. The opportunity for us lies in the continued expansion of this new frontier.  How can we learn more about others, build our networks, and tap those resources in a way that everyone benefits?

Following just a few simple rules about who we add, who we listen to, how we explore, and how we enter into agreements to create new businesses, I think we're all going to be able to feast upon new worlds of opportunity.

Seven Rules for New Twitterers
  1. Follow great minds that both reinforce and challenge what you believe about the world.
  2. Follow some who have great throngs, if only to figure out why people are thronging
  3. Follow everyone you love and encourage those you love to join in the conversation
  4. Share only what matters most to you.
  5. Encourage everyone, because everyone is struggling with something.
  6. Thank everyone who reaches out to you. It's the cheapest, easiest, and surest way to put a smile on someone's face.
  7. Share what you have learned about this grand experiment with others. You never know who else might need the benefit of some friends participating in their personal or business growth.

-Phil Yanov is @thinkhammer

About Phil Yanov

Phil Yanov is a Technologist, Columnist and Public Radio Commentator.

He is the founder of Tech After Five as well as the founder and President of the GSA Technology Council and the IT Leadership Council.

His personal technology column appears in Greenville Business Magazine and the Columbia Business Journal.

He co-hosts the Your Day technology shows heard on NPR radio stations across South Carolina and is a frequent contributor to technology stories appearing on radio and television.