As someone who doesn’t have Facebook, and who only got a cellphone a year ago, I was wary of signing up for a Twitter account. I was sure it was going to add a few things to my life, but I was scared that it was going to take up more time than I had. I was scared I would get addicted. Now, having had an account for a week, I can safely say that I’m not. But it was close.
For the first few days, I left the website open on my computer so that I could make sure I would catch any new tweets that went across my feed. I had checked the little cellphone icon next to everyone’s name so that I would get all their updates to my phone; it took only an hour of constant vibrating for me to learn my lesson there. I also decided to follow anyone and everyone, from news organizations to people who were mentioned in other people’s tweets. For the first few days, Twitter really was a just a place to dump information. The following five tips are things I’ve learned, and steps I took to reach my current love of the social media tool.
1. Twitter is a brilliant way to get your news. With the internet, there is just so much news out there, and when you’re searching it out on your own, it can be hard to catch everything. I followed all of my regularly visited organizations (CBC, The New York Times, The New Yorker, etc.) and found that I’ve actually been more informed. I know that reading a 140 character tweet is the same as reading a headline and a lead, but when the news is presented to you, rather than you having to search for it, the headline is all you really need. I was compelled to read every 140 character “story,” and if it was something that appealed directly to my interests, then I would find a link to read more. For example, that Parliament has decided to spend $42 million on a glass dome is enough information. The earthquake in New Zealand, however, captured enough of my attention to seek out more on the story. I can honestly say I’ve never felt so informed.
2. In addition to news organizations, I followed journalists. I decided to seek out Nick Kristof, and found his live tweets over the situation in Bahrain absolutely captivating. There are some stories that aren’t told justly when an article, or even several, are spent on it. Articles still have their place, but I never really registered what I was missing from them until I was following Kristof’s experiences. The Bahraini protest, especially after the Egyptian protest and its peaceful resolution, was such an intense situation! His pictures of scenes, and even his tweet about the royal family trying to pass around a petition to have his credentials taken away made me feel connected to Bahrain in such an immediate way. It was a new experience for me, being new to social media.
3. I now only have CBC and Alain de Botton’s tweets sent to my phone. CBC has always been my source for news, and since Twitter is the tool I have been using to get my news, I figured why not use the tool to its full extent and have the news sent directly to me. Having every news organization send messages to my phone was overwhelming to the point that I wasn’t really absorbing the news before I had another message waiting for me. My advice is to choose one source and stick to it. I also chose to keep Botton on my phone list because his tweets are poetic renditions of major world events, and they simply get me thinking outside of the box.
4. Twitter really is what you make of it. I have decided to make it a tool for news and for poetry. I have divided the people I’m following into those categories, and have a miscellaneous category for those I know will tweet interesting things, but not necessarily things I would always want to read. In this way, I feel as though I’m making the most of the tool. One of the largest criticisms of Twitter is that it is mostly a dumping ground for useless updates. Well, maybe it mostly is, but that’s not what it is entirely. If you want to make use of it, then pick and choose who you follow. I have discovered that there is a point to this system of information; it can really take you places if you let it.
5. This is maybe a minor point, but I thought I should mention that you shouldn’t feel pressured to tweet something. I certainly did, and I didn’t know immediately what I should be tweeting about. I felt like I had to prove to my followers that they should be following me. That’s just stupid. When you have something to say, then say it. That’s what Twitter’s all about, really.