Twitter seems so simple on the surface. This knee-jerk reaction is certainly reflected by media consumers who fall under “late adapters” or “laggards” in the Diffusion of Innovation theory. My dad, for instance, makes Twitter jokes anytime I’m using my iPhone around him. “Are you tweeting your food order to your millions of followers?” the 73-year-old teases. The reality is that he doesn’t understand the technology. Ironically, he does text message and use Facebook, albeit at a slower pace than most young people. Perhaps, one day, he’ll use Twitter; even if only as a follower and not a tweeter.
I, too, was once a Twitter skeptic. As a junior at TCU, l’d watch my roommate, then a Broadcast Journalism major, peruse his Twitter feed for hours at a time. I thought “how can you fit anything interesting into 140 characters? Does anyone say anything of substance on there?”
Eventually, I joined Twitter and have really enjoyed it. My skepticism was diminished, and I began to create the right balance of information to fill my feed. I’ll address Facebook in a later post, but I do think one social dynamic separates the two networks quite significantly: you don’t have to follow your friends on Twitter.
In my time using Twitter, I’ve only had one person – a very close friend – point out to them that I didn’t follow them. On Facebook, I would consider it rude not to be “friends” with someone who I came in to contact with socially often and I knew used Facebook regularly. Although you do have the ability to “block” or “hide” those who annoy you on Facebook, the whole dynamic is different on Twitter.
Twitter allows users to create the perfect menu of information. For me, I follow a lot of reporters and news sources for political and breaking news, a good bit of sports-related accounts, musicians, and then friends. In other words, I’m able to make Twitter very personal to my interests.
I do follow some education-specific accounts (such as the Chronicle of Higher Education), but I need to do more of that. What makes Twitter great for education is that it’s contrary to nearly every stereotypical criticism of education. Twitter is brief, extremely current, collaborative, and innovative.
While I still enjoy Facebook a great deal, the high school seniors with whom I work have informed me that they have shifted their social media presence to Twitter and other networks like Instagram, Vine, and Snapchat. Overwhelmingly, their reasoning is that their parents are now using Facebook and they want no part of that. This would apply to my dad as well, but I suppose I’ve outgrown the teenage disdain for my parents and enjoy sharing posts from Facebook with my dad on his timeline.
Another observation when it comes to young people is addressing whether Twitter is “good” or “bad.” I think this mindset is a foolish approach. Just like a gun can be used by good guys and bad guys, Twitter and any other network or application can be used for silly or productive purposes. This is an important consideration for educators. If students are already using Twitter for social purposes, why not blend in educational material to enhance their learning? Seems like a no-brainier to me. #hashtag.
PS – This assignment was adapted from Jane Hart’s 10 Tools Challenge: http://www.c4lpt.co.uk/blog/2013/01/08/take-the-10-tools-challenge/