Saturday, 8 November 2014

Twitter and the microblogging phenomenon

Although I’ve been a member of Twitter for a while now, I have only recently discovered just how useful it is and can be.  In the past I’d posted small snippets of uninteresting information about nothing, achieving nothing and saying nothing.  However, in the midst of reassessing some of my life choices (and becoming increasingly closer to entering the real world), I took it upon myself to approach Twitter with a whole new perspective.

What did I find I hear you cry! Well… quite a bit actually.  Stripping away the crap that clogged up my out-dated Twitter newsfeed I began to filter and follow.  I filtered through accounts that gained my interest in various areas; some journalism, feminism, advertising companies and some arty-farty bits and bobs.  I then began to delve deeper, ‘following’ people who had some pretty cool opinions/news on my selected areas of interest.  This was also around about the time I stumbled across the ‘hashtag’; an incredibly efficient way of finding out more about something that I was interested in.  For example, if I ‘hashtagged' #art it would allow me to ‘#discover’ a ridiculous amount of information around and about that topic, whilst still having the ability to connect with new people.

Through this, I began to gain knowledge about things I wouldn't have otherwise found.  One of the beautiful things about microblogging is the compact information which is fed through to you; a post is short and sweet and often summarises the content of an article or conversation, meaning more time for tea-making and cake-eating.  The fact 'tweets' are compacted into a mere 140 characters means that the information communicated has to be efficient, leaving little room for all that flowery talk (a.k.a bullshit).  This is actually wonderful when having a little scroll through your Twitter newsfeed as, generally speaking, your selection process is reduced to a choice of two; one that provides you with a short, condensed summary of information, as previously stated, or, one that entices you with something a little more enigmatic in an attempt to rouse your curiosity.  As a result, my eyes were opened to a whole new world and way of communicating. Twitter's efficiency is not only a great platform for swiftly sharing and accessing information on-the-go, but also one that presents journalism in a whole new format.  Gone are the days where you have to wait to read about the news, instead you are given regular updates which you can choose to follow or ignore.

After a lot of browsing, and following (and a bit of procrastinating), I decided to take it one step further… I decided to ENGAGE.  I felt it about time to make my public début after reading a lot and learning a lot.  I went about this by actually ‘tweeting’ about features I’d read, liked and disliked.  I also began ‘retweeting’ posts I felt were really good and even ventured as far as posing questions to the authors, for want of finding out more.  This was something I found to be majorly successful, and rather exciting; I was engaging with journalists and people I admired, and in doing so, was having an opinion that would possibly be viewed by a rather large amount of people.  After engaging with a few people, I was pleasantly surprised to find I was getting responses, and on occasion, questions put back to me regarding my own thoughts on certain topics.

In all honesty, there was a bit of a buzz to it, you weren't just posting pics of your messy Saturday night antics to your friends and acquaintances for ‘lols', instead you were actually involving yourself in something a bit bigger, and for better reasons.  I found myself being exposed to stories, news and people I would have otherwise remained ignorant to, and as a result, found myself beginning to talk about these snippets of information with others away from Twitter.  I was beginning to feel part of something really rather interesting. Twitter had come to feel like something of a community.  McMillan and Chavis point out in a 1986 article, that this sense of community is created through four elements: membership, integration, fulfilment of needs, and shared emotional connections.  This is something Twitter definitely generates.  Within this new-found community I was experiencing comments being constantly exchanged that elicited emotional responses along with the opportunity to either take part or merely spectate. 

I have become (much to my surprise) very much a fan of Twitter.  Through interacting and engaging with it, I have come to appreciate its full potential and learn how useful it can be.  Not only is it a platform for socialising and learning, it also offers opportunities to network and educate.  Yes, I still like to share a few bits of trivial information about nothing too important now and then, but I am now using Twitter in a much more resourceful way.  Without sounding like some sort of middle-class hippie, I feel using Twitter is, and has been, an enriching experience... pretty deep right?  The thing is, through using Twitter I have found out interesting information on a daily basis about the world and the people in it, and to say that my exposure hasn't improved/enhanced my knowledge, would be a bare faced lie.  Twitter isn't everything but it is a ridiculously useful platform I would encourage anyone to explore.

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