Who cares what I’m doing right now? What can you really say in 140 characters?

These are some of the most common objections to using social media in general, and Twitter in particular. Chances are you’ve heard someone mention these concerns. Maybe you’ve even thought them yourself. I know I have.

The biggest disservice that Twitter ever did for itself was the stupid “what are you doing right now?” question. For many people, that flip statement came to define Twitter as an empty, vapid, egotistical service. Just look at the Oatmeal’s scathingly hilarious comic on 10 Things You Need to Stop Tweeting About. For many people, this narcissistic side to Twitter is all they know.

And while there are people who only use Twitter in that capacity, they’re a fairly small minority. Here are the real reasons you need to be on Twitter, either recreationally, professionally, or both:

1. To learn: Twitter is one of the best sources of information out there. Everyday I learn something new and fascinating from my “tweeps.” Maybe it’s a link to a great professional development article. Maybe it’s a new aspect of social media I hadn’t thought about. Or maybe it’s just a great new place to eat, or a bizarre factoid. Whatever it is, I always walk away from Twitter with some new tidbit.

2. To network: Through Twitter, I’ve met acclaimed social media experts, dozens of local small business owners and marketing professionals. I’ve even communicated with a national TV host. Twitter is a great leveler, and allows me to get in touch with people I never would have met otherwise.

3. To share: Any Twitter user worth his or her salt loves to share. Sometimes, admittedly, it’s for personal gain: I routinely tweet items about Roundpeg, or about one of our clients. And that has its place. But I also share information about job postings, retweets of other company’s triumphs and news, and generally interesting information. Twitter only works if you participate, and give just as much as you get.

4. To have fun: Chat about your favorite TV show. Shoot the breeze about the weather. Laugh at someone’s cute photo. At the end of the day, Twitter is exactly what you make of it. If you choose to only share trivial updates, that’s okay too. But if you’re looking for a deeper experience, you can find that, too.

Don’t fear Twitter. Embrace it! Don’t be afraid to jump in–the water’s fine.