I joined up for twitter approximately a year ago. Before that, I thought it was so stupid, like it was just the status updates on facebook. And it still is, in a lot of ways.
But the key is who you are following. Obviously, if you only follow your friends and celebrities who don’t have anything intelligent to say or share, then status updates is really all you get.
But I refuse to use my twitter account for that purpose. I follow people, and if they start having inane conversations to each other (I used to follow a couple. It was ridiculous, how they tweeted to each other, like they thought it made them so cool to show the world how ‘in love’ they are.) then I unfollow them. And I do that quite a bit.
So, lesson number 1: Don’t follow idiots. Follow people who you find intelligent and engaging, maybe some people who piss you off but who you know has something important to say, but people who are current and know how to use twitter for the purpose you want.
The thing that is great about twitter when you weed out all the stupid stuff, is that it allows you to see the conversations happening about something, all in one place. You can search something and see what regular people are thinking about it. You can just scroll through your homepage and find interesting stories, and if the subject is interesting but the writing is not, you can exit it and soon enough you’ll find something better written and more engaging on the same subject.
Lesson number 2? While being mindful of who you follow, follow different sources, or you will get trapped in a bubble. Follow different news sources, that way you can find the best stories and sources! It’s pretty much all commentary, and that’s not bad. There’s a lot of funny and smart things being tweeted and shared all the time.
Lesson 3: Don’t be stupid about your own tweets. You know when you’re on facebook, and you’re friends with that awful person who keeps their status updated every second of every day? “Oh, just had toast for breakfast, going to the gym later… oh no, broke a nail” Or the worst ones, “I thought I knew you, you broke my heart… etc.” Don’t do that. I will unfollow you. Tweet about things that you think are important, witty, intelligent. Be involved, but in a professional way.
That is how I use my twitter feed. I don’t tweet often, only when I have something I think is important or funny to share about something I think other people might like to or even should know. Sometimes I even use twitter to find story ideas for journalism class or find sources.
During the crisis in Egypt, I started to follow @Gsquare86, an activist in Cairo, which was really interesting.
I follow my classmates, a few of my favourite bands, Brad Woodside, numerous New Brunswick and Newfoundland news organizations and journalists, other Canadian journalists like @snolen, and @jianghomeshi. I follow Macleans books, anesty internation, human rights watch, and the globe and mail. I get CBCAlerts sent directly to my phone so I get the headlines throughout the day and I can look them up later when I get home.
Twitter exposes me to different news sources and outlets, and lets me share what I think is important. I have 71 followers, and I don’t recognize half of them, but whatever, maybe they’ll learn something from what I have to say, maybe not, I’ve only tweeted 93 times.
I am on twitter right now, and I have just learned that a fellow journalism student has arrived in Haiti, she has tweeted what she is seeing in Port au Prince.
Obviously, there are numerous tweets about Libya. According to Human Rights watch, the Libya attacks may constitute crimes against humanity.
According to TIME, cellphones cause a change in brain activity.
CosmoOnline (my guilty pleasure) gives me makeup advice.
This morning, I woke up to a CBCAlert about the Earthquake in New Zealand. 75 people are dead, and 300 missing.
Lesson 4: Don’t let it overcome your life. Because it’s easy to spend hours wasting away at it. Use it for your own purposes then turn it off. Don’t let yourself get bogged down in the mass amount of information, and don’t even try to read it all.
Twitter is great and awful because of the amount of information available. It has grown on me in the year I have participated in it. I use it to get my news, and to check out my different interests. It’s all in one place, and I like it like that. It’s not perfect, and it has its flaws, but when you figure out how it works for you, it has its benefits.
Lesson 5: Just give it a chance, it’s really not that bad. And you might actually find it interesting, and dare I say, useful?!