It would be dishonest to say I have Twitter Fever. I created an account several months ago, but completely neglected it until rather recently. I don’t deny that there are benefits to the social network, but it hasn’t transformed the way I receive my news or stay informed. Perhaps it’s my old fashioned personality, my lack of familiarity or my loyalty to particular news outlets, but I have yet to be completely won over by this multi-source forum of information.
Despite my seemingly negative attitude, I am still convinced there are some useful things to learn from Twitter:
1- News Now: We are becoming an increasingly impatient society. Now, more than ever, we feel the need to be constantly informed. One of the greatest advantages of Twitter is its ability to provide up to the minute updates about the unfolding of major news events. It may not provide the in depth coverage of a full length news article, but it relays a message as quickly as possible. I happened to be on Twitter when news of New Zealand’s 6.3 magnitude earthquake was first reported. Since then, I’ve been following the tweets coming out of Christchurch, including news on the quake’s aftermath.
2- Amy’s Haitian Adventure: Like Facebook, Twitter satisfies our fix for keeping tabs on our family, friends and acquaintances. Amy MacKenzie left on Monday for her first international journalistic experience. The ambitious young reporter is spending the week in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, filming for a non-profit aid organization. Twitter has allowed me and other STU students to follow Amy’s time in Haiti and it gives us a glimpse into the sights and sounds she’s experiencing. Her Twitter account also provides a link to her blog, which gives readers a sort of “one stop shop” for information.
3- The Power of a simple message: Advertising is everything. The internet has created an unlimited forum of discussion and has given a voice to anyone with a keyboard. Everyone wants their message to be heard, which creates competition between businesses, organizations and individual “tweeters.” You have 140 characters to lure in your reader. With Twitter, less is more. The more clever a tweet is, the better. @Canadian Politics is very effective in their communication. Their tweets are clear, concise and genuinely interesting. Here are a few examples: “Feds move to control hallucinogen saliva” and “Crime costs Canada $100B a year.“ Who wouldn’t want to read that?
4- Creative Inspiration: Twitter is a good resource for story ideas. As a journalism student studying two mediums, I am constantly on the hunt for good stories. If there’s something important going on, you can bet it will be tweeted almost immediately and followed up with responses for days, weeks or even months. I enjoy browsing Twitter for stories and then finding a local angle on a story.
5- Look at Me: Social media websites like Twitter and Facebook provide an interesting insight into our character as online citizens. As much as we try to deny it, we care what other people think. All of us have had the experience of sitting in front of our computer, trying to compose a message that’s witty, clever, intelligent and don’t forget- just 140 characters. Our obsession with documenting our every move through “status updates” and tweets demonstrates both our need for attention and our concern with seeming to lead interesting lives.