Monday, 6 February 2012

What the Tweet? Why Twitter is the new global phenomenon

It is hard to imagine that I have been on the Twitter scene for just under 18 months. 18 months to write countless crappy tweets, follow hundreds of vain celebrities telling me what they are having for lunch and re-tweeting loads of statuses about being unlucky in love and why I hate you. Which is why, after tweeting my 4000th tweet yesterday*, I thought it was time to reflect on my, very personal, Twitter experience.

In all honesty, I love Twitter. I love the excitement of receiving a tweet through my phone or checking out who is kind enough (or mad enough, in some cases) to follow me. It is highly addictive, time consuming and generally of little importance to your own personal development, but it is a real catch, despite the time it takes to get settled into Twitter (I have really only started using it regularly since I started uni last September.)

I see Twitter as an opportunity for me. On one hand, it is a great way to socialise. Whether it be people you don't necessarily know, or people you did not talk to that much at college, it is really helpful and so easy to communicate with new friends. In fact, I probably use Twitter more than I do text, Facebook chat or email. On the other hand, it is really helpful for my course. As a journalist, catching all the latest news is vital to being in-the-know. By following various news outlets, broadcasters and reporters, it is essentially your primary source for news gathering. The London riots of last year showed many, for example, of just how important Twitter is in trending news stories.

Trends, in particular, can be a bit of a mix bag when it comes to information which could be relevant. On one hand, the current affairs trends are excellent at providing you with the latest stories, whereas #iloveJustin or #1Drockmyworld are just some of the more annoying ones. Various 'amusing' trends provide a little escapism, which include #animalsongs or #eastendersgameshows, where you swap say the first word of a song to form an Animal song. If enough people re-tweet your tweet, then your tweet could essentially trend worldwide.

But Twitter should not be focused on trying to gain the most followers, or write the most tweets. It might seem pathetic to have under 100 followers, but in reality, the best way to use Twitter is to follow more people. By following more people, and tweeting them on a particular issue etc, you are bound to get more followers with an interest in that field. Rather than trying to pine for followers, as some people do. Twitter really is perfect at making new friends, whether they be half way round the world, or just across the street from you. Depending on your privacy settings, you can choose who follows you and who does not. It is not like Facebook, where adding people you do not know is deemed weird and stalker-like. The Twitter community is generally one of friends and openness. People you can actually have a decent, meaningful conversation with, not one that consists of "brb" and "ly xxx".

So who to follow? Well, start off with a few celebrities. Comedians usually provide decent enough entertainment, everyone else is either promoting themselves or so vain they feel it is their right for you to reply to their tweet of: "I just bought a D&G coat, now I am off to some glitzy bash in a low cut dress so I can get papped. You're all fucking losers". Companies, businesses and experts should also be top of the agenda. I have entered so many competitions and prize draws, as well as gaining promotions and discounts on clothes and other exciting opportunities, just from clicking on a few tweets. Just be suspicious if you get any sent to you personally. Then you know they are spam.

For sharing content, it is a doddle. Once you have worked out how to keep your statuses short and concise, then literally Twitter is your oyster. You can share dozens of photos, videos, website links and loads of other stuff to your friends and the global community at the click of a button. None of this "I have to tag such and such" nonsense. Just simple upload and share. Easy peasy.

Ok, it has its flaws. As my followers list grows - I have a moderate 188 last time I checked - so do the spam tweets, with their free giveaways and weird links. Ignore these. You also get the random porn stars. who seem to disappear before I even have chance to see their profile. And yes, to some extent, I like the fact that it is still quite new in the social-networking world, and that many people do not use it. It is the only way I can slag off my family without them noticing. Once my Mother starts following me, that will be it.

So if you tire of Facebook, want to meet new people and learn interesting, and sometimes odd, new things then Twitter is for you. It takes time getting used to, but the benefits are great. It has changed my life, no matter how sad that sounds. So I can say, with pride, that I am now a a firm, proud member of the Twitteratie, along with 300 million others. Long Live Twitter!

You can follow me at: or just search @kieranwatkins

For a basic guide, the dedicated Wikipedia page has all the information needed to get cracking: (including what a hashtag, trend and DM means, if you did not already know!)

Pictures Courtesy of Wikipedia

*in the space of 24 hours, my tweet total has increased by 200, and counting!

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