12 April 2012

Social Media for the Over-40s: Twitter

For those of you who missed "Social Media for the Over-40s: Facebook", I'll introduce this new post by letting you know that I will be 40 this year. As I feel that I am part of a generation who has mixed feelings about social media, I'd like to share my own experiences hoping they will resonate with some of you and maybe even show you how some of these new platforms can be of use. 


I arrived late to Twitter. Let's face it, technologically, I'm a late adopter. I know technology makes our lives easier (for the most part) but I'm one of those people who is happy with what they have and so, I don't feel I need to integrate new technology into my life. As I don't feel the need, I don't try it: until a friend recommends it - a bit like bestsellers. The fact that everyone reads them is not enough for me, someone I trust who knows me well has to recommend them before I read them.

So, Twitter, why did I finally give in? An application through which you tell the world what you're doing in 140 characters didn't seem very appealing. "Microblogging", it's called. I was already blogging at a "macro" level, why did I need to scale down?

My friend Sinead, who knows me, who I trust, pointed out its appeal. Never mind being "followed", you will find joy in "following".

Okay, pause, for those of you who, like my parents, are already lost, here's how Twitter works. Otherwise, feel free to skip this paragraph, unless you want to see whether I've got it right or missed out on something vital (comments welcome below).

@messages are like pinning notes to a noticeboard.
Twitter is like one big club in the sky. Once you open an account, you can "follow" people: anyone who is on Twitter. But unlike Facebook, those people do not need to accept you as followers, you just need to follow them by clicking a button. You can follow your "real friends", people in the public eye, businesses, NGOs, magazines and newspapers etc. That's in a nutshell, how it works. You can send a message to anyone in the Twittersphere by preceding your tweet with an '@' and the username. For example, if I want to send a message to Richard Branson to ask when I will be able to afford a trip to the moon, I precede my question with @richardbranson. This message will be public, everyone will be able to see it. You can only send private messages to those who follow you. Think of these "direct messages" as putting a note in someone's pigeon hole while a public @message is like leaving an open note for them on a noticeboard.

So, now that you know how it works, let's continue. Why would you want to "follow"? Well, many people on Twitter don't just shout out the fact that they're walking the dog, they also operate as a filter for information. This means that if you are at a bit of a loss as to where to find information of interest or just interesting articles on the web, you can follow someone you respect, or whose opinions, interests and values are similar to yours - and you can follow them. Every now and then they will probably send a link to an interesting article or blog post and voilá, there you are, that's your filter.

The other aspect I have recently discovered and which I really enjoy is the hashtag, # (I told you I was a late developer). [On my keyboard I need to press ALT+3.]

You might have noticed some TV programmes or mainly events, mentioning the hashtag. This device enables everyone in the Twitter ether-club to communicate with each other as they attend or watch an event, programme, webminar, etc. It's also a way of clumping together 1000s of tweets, so that if you are searching for something specific, you can find it.

This can be quite fun. For example, last Sunday I watched for the first time, live on TV, the Oxford-Cambridge boat race. So glad I did - apart from it being unexpectedly exciting to watch the two teams competing, suddenly, major drama! A swimmer in the Thames! Some guy appeared in the water next to the two boats. The rowers dropped their oars and the race stopped. "Twitter!", I thought. I typed "#boatrace" and immediately saw what everyone who was tweeting about it was saying. It really was interesting to follow the suspense in bursts of 140 characters. It all got more and more interesting as the oars from the two teams crashed and one of Oxford's rowers lost the spade. And the drama continued when after the boats arrived at the finishing line, another of Oxford's team members collapsed. Following the event on TV was riveting. Following it on Twitter was a mixture of gossiping at a party and eavesdropping on conversations.

So, I suppose I like using this platform to streamline my thoughts, my information and my fun!

Right, I'm off to tweet about finishing this post. Tweet, tweet.








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