Earlier this week, I finally took the plunge and got a Twitter account. I know, I’m late to the party, which is usually the case when it comes to technological parties. Considering Twitter has been in existence for eight and a half years and has been enjoying healthy mainstream popularity for at least five years, I’m at best in the back end of the “late majority” group on this graph, and a case could be made that I’m more like a “laggard.” As a guy who’s in the library racket, which like pretty much every other racket must not only accept but champion advances in technology and information dissemination or die and leave an irrelevant corpse, such tardiness is unacceptable.
Why with the feet dragging? My reflexive reaction, as if often is, was “that’s stupid.” Why would anybody want to use this glorified status update machine? I mean, I already had Facebook (which, it should be noted, I also adopted relatively late, and only after one of my friends created an unflattering, semi-satirical profile for me and left me no choice but to join up and clarify that the real Cullen Dansby does not listen to music made for high school girls…at least not exclusively). After I got past my initial change-fearing stage, I accepted that there might be some utility to Twitter, but not for me personally. I thought it made sense for businesses and organizations (like libraries) to use it to promote and get the word out about things, but I couldn’t see an individual like me using it. Frankly, I don’t think I’m that interesting and doubted the Twitterverse would be too eager to gobble up 140-character thought nuggets from little old me. This self-effacing attitude precluded me from even considering Twitter for years. Then, a simple, brilliant, obvious idea I should have had long ago came to me: I could join and, like 44 percent of account holders, never tweet.
So, I’ve created and account and begun following people who will provide information I find useful and/or entertaining, mostly sports reporters, musicians, actors, athletes, comedians, and authors. My plan is to inconspicuously soak up their chatter like a little mute bird, and so far, I’ve been enjoying the experience. It’s like a personalized newsfeed that covers only what I’m interested in, which Facebook pretty much does as well, but I’m finding the low character limit makes the Twitter feed more efficiently readable and digestible; I can zoom through it in a few minutes and pick up a ton of information. Any Negative Nellies reading this might be thinking “Well, that’s all well and good, but how truly valuable is efficiently picking up information if the “information” you’re consuming is so frivolous?” These hypothetical Nellies I invented to advance my argument have a good point, one I’ve considered and grudgingly decided to address. Rather than insulating myself and giving my attention only to the teensy sliver of the lighter side of the world that amuses me, I’m going to attempt to better myself. In addition to my jolly goofy fun time follows, I’m also following CNN, BBC World News, the Associated Press, the New York Times, and several local news sources. Now, sprinkled into my mass of fluffy sports and entertainment updates are headlines and news bytes with links to full articles that can actually make me (gasp) a more informed member of society. It’s like hiding medicine in a brownie.
I know following a few news sources on Twitter is a very small step to take toward becoming a tuned in citizen, but for me, and hopefully for potential others, it’s an important step that may be easily taken. With social media, DVRs, streaming on-demand content, and the Internet in general, it’s way too easy to segment and compartmentalize your attention into only select things you want to see. While it’s true that Twitter can be another way to do that, it doesn’t have to be. I’m starting to think that it can be a decent one-stop shop for news both hard and soft, or at the very least, a good starting point to direct you to more substantial news. This laggard is pleasantly surprised to declare that Twitter is in fact a good thing for the information world.