What the hell is Twitter, anyway?

Twitter, tweet, twitpic, Tweetdeck, Twitterific.  It sounds like something from a Dr. Seuss book, but it’s actually some of the most hip and up-to-date communications lingo out right now.  They all refer to Twitter, a social networking website where users are asked to answer one question: “What are you doing?”   The “answers” (tweets) are short.  They make you keep it to 130 characters only, and it’s designed to be quick and mobile.  You “follow” people (sign up to receive their tweets,) and try to get people to follow you.  Much of the world has gotten on board this internet phenomenon, but there are still quite a few hold-outs out there who haven’t made the leap yet.  Are you one of them?

Twitter popped up sometime after Facebook became open to anyone, and wasn’t only for students anymore.  The Facebook status update had become more than just a notification about how you were feeling at that moment, it became an art.  People would spend a good bit of time crafting clever, funny updates in the hopes of garnering several comments and starting a conversation.  In its early stages, Twitter was basically described as a Facebook status update without all the Facebooking attached.  It didn’t take long for people to discover all the other wonderful ways Twitter could be used.

The number one reason people say they don’t use Twitter is because it’s nothing more than your ordinary friends telling you how many times they ate sushi this week, if the TV show sucked, or that their dog was sick.  Honestly, none of us really care about all that.  If we’re close enough of friends, you’ll probably call me on the phone, text me or tell me when we’re hanging out Friday night, right?

But what happened was businesses figured out they could reach a diverse group of people, or a targeted group of people, for free.  Restaurants, bars, bookstores and loads of other types of businesses started a Twitter account and inform their followers about happy hour specials, book signings and what-have-you.  People sign up to follow their local hangouts on Twitter and can find out what band is playing Saturday after the game.

Of course, it’s grown now, and celebrities are tweeting.  You can follow Ryan Seacrest and get first-hand info about his many jobs on TV and radio.  You can follow Lindsay Lohan and witness her train wreck for yourself.  You can follow your favorite comedians and get a shot of comedy first thing in the morning to jump start your day.  My personal favorite is Michael Ian Black.  His tweets are not-suitable-for-work, by the way.

I know people who follow their favorite authors, celebrity chefs, political pundits, news organizations.  And Barack Obama tweets, people.  Yes, the President of the United States updates his Twitter page a couple times each week.

Just because your best friend is on Twitter doesn’t mean you have to tell them you are.  If you’re sick of hearing about trips to the dentist or the boy who never called back, you don’t have to.  And something you may never have thought of: you don’t have to tweet.  You never have to post an update.  You can just use Twitter as an information gathering device.  Or you can use Twitter to suit whatever your own purposes may be.  Twitter is one of those things that’s begs to be re-invented.

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~ by jessiekrueger on March 14, 2010.

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