The term social networking gets bandied about a bit too often these days. Most internet veterans probably cringe at the mention of websites like FaceBook or MySpace, two of the pioneers of the genre. Although it’s likely that those sites are so disregarded amongst the professional class of internet users simply because they consider such sites to be “beneath them,” most of these users simply cannot find a legitimate use for social networking.
Personally, I belong to MySpace and FaceBook purely because my friends and family have chosen those sites as their point of contact to keep me (and others) apprised of what is going on in their lives. Since I’ve long used this website (rynosoft.com) for updating everyone on what goes on in my life, I obviously don’t need any other website to do so. Consequently, social networking websites have always been a strictly one-way affair for me. Until Rob introduced me to Twitter last year.
It’s difficult to describe what Twitter does because it lacks a close analog in the “real” world. And so there was a period of time after I signed up that I really didn’t “get” what it was all about. I pestered Rob via instant message asking, “What the hell am I supposed to do with this thing?” Do what it says: answer the question “What are you doing?”
Previous to Twitter, I was prone to changing my AIM status to reflect what I might be doing at work or perhaps to make a private joke to those that had me in their buddy list. Twitter provides a better outlet for that instinct and has been described by many as “micro-blogging”. Although that’s a fair description, I think it may discourage those who are not interested in or are intimidated by the prospect of blogging. Most bloggers have a theme or specific subject matter that they tend to write about, but the only theme for most Twitterers is the triviality of day-to-day life.
Don’t let that description deceive you, though. Life is mostly made up of a series of trivial events which, when taken together, provide a bigger picture. When you have access to occasional blow-by-blow descriptions, you become more involved in someone’s life in a very immediate way. Sometimes I’ll just passively digest these tidbits as they pass by while other times my curiosity will be piqued and I’ll seek more information via email and/or instant message. The end result is that Twitter brings people closer together even though physical distance may separate you.
You may have noticed the addition of a Twitter status on the right side of this blog several months ago. Twitter provides the web code necessary to display your most recent “tweet” (Twitter’s term for a single entry), so it’s very easy to share your Twitter status on web pages and blogs. Twitter also has SMS (i.e. text message) and instant message features which let you tweet even when you don’t have a web browser in front of you. For example, if you’re at a concert you might like to share that your favorite song had just been performed. Since I don’t have a mobile phone, that’s not a feature that I use.
More information on Twitter: