Tweeting from darkness into light

by Beacon Staff • February 18, 2009

Listen.

I'm going to write this entire column in tweets.

A tweet is a group of characters numbering 140 or less. When you write something on Twitter, it's called a "tweet." Get it?

A tweet is short and small, but distinctive. It can stand alone, or as part of a succession of tweets. Tweet, tweet, tweet.

If you have to explain this concept to your parents, I advise against using the term "microblog." Though it is pretty accurate.

I'm doing this to prove to you how easy it is. Because Twitter really is taking off, but some curmudgeons still don't trust it.

I guess I see their point. It's usually smart to be suspicious of hype. See: the Segway scooter, Microsoft Zune, Al Qaeda in Iraq, et al.

But Twitter earns it. Here's why.

First: Twitter is not a narcissistic tool used to narrate your every move. Ex. below-an actual tweet from a friend of mine.

"It's frightening how quickly I think of ironic Facebook games. Latest: starting the group 'Lost my contacts...now I can't see!'"

See? That's not narcissism. It's funny. It's creative writing. If you thought of that, wouldn't you want to share it?

Second: there's no "profile." You get a small photo and room for a 160 character bio. No jobs list, quotes section or favorite things.

Because really-aren't you sick of hearing social networking claim we can "find friends with similar interests"?

Like that's all there is to it. I'm sure there are plenty of guys who, like me, are very interested in Evangeline Lilly.

But I don't want to be their friends.

In lieu of performative online personas, Twitter lets you judge each individual by a single metric: his or her content.

It really levels the playing field, so to speak.

Say you find someone on Twitter. You read their tweets. Maybe they're funny, interesting, or insightful. You opt to "follow" them.

Their tweets then appear on your newsfeed-esque homepage.

Moreover: if you find someone boring, don't follow him. He won't show up in your "feed." You can still view people you don't follow.

Ex.: I don't follow Karl Rove. But sometimes I view him, because he once Tweet'd a photo from a hunting trip with Fox News' Chris Wallace.

Some people, like Karl Rove, are pretty awful at Twitter. One of Karl's actual tweets last week: "Heading to an Alumni BBQ."

Others, like Shaq's, are great-but for all the wrong reasons: "The obama speech, wow, was dat memorized, very impressive, im jealous".

Consultants, apparently, won't stop telling celebrities and corporations they should be on Twitter.

MC Hammer, the New York Times and Whole Foods all tweet. (The latter to advertise "singles nights.")

There are small downsides. Before posting, links have to be shrunk. And I don't know how "Republican GOP" started following me.

But Twitter has a slicker, faster interface than Facebook. It's easier to maintain. Plus you can tweet from your phone.

And news orgs. are wracking their hive minds to find uses for Twitter's immediacy. Twitter users broke Mumbai and the Hudson River landing.

Some writers think Twitter, like the rest of the Internet, will turn us shallow and braindead, unable to focus on long, complex texts.

I'd argue that intellectual fortitude cannot be lost simply by using a machine. Exhibit A: Shaq.

So get on Twitter, and follow me! Especially you, Evangeline.

iBrent Baughman is a junior writing and information broadcasting major and a columnist for /iThe Beaconi. Baughman is brushing his teeth and then heading to bed for the night./i,Brent Baughman, iBeacon/i columnist