The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Twitter useful for more than social interaction

Kevin Gisi

I never thought I’d be in the position of defending Twitter.

I once was suspicious of the site whose only function was to pose the question, “What are you doing?” But, unlike the Twitter-bashing author of the article “Less than Twitterpated,” I have actually given Twitter a chance. And now, seven months and 139 tweets later, I am an unabashed Twitter believer.

Perhaps you, too, are convinced that no value can be communicated in such short blurbs. I’ll take a bold step here and assert that sometimes we might actually learn more about a person from these ‘insignificant’ updates than we would from normal conversation. Now, I’m not suggesting Twitter as a replacement to quality time or conversation, but rather as a surprisingly effective complement. I even have an example that demonstrates this crazy claim.

I have a second cousin who recently moved from San Francisco to Chicago. Unfortunately, our usual correspondence consists only of annual Christmas letters and visits every few years. Until very recently, I had a very vague idea of my cousin’s identity. I knew she was married, with three children. I knew her occupation. I knew where she lived. One might say these are the most important statistics to know, but I still felt like I didn’t know her at all.

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That is, until we started following each other on Twitter. Twitter can do something that letters, e-mails, phone calls and even visits cannot always do – it helps you learn the details of someone’s everyday life, including likes, dislikes, habits and frustrations.

Through her tweets, I learned that she likes Paul McCartney and watches “House,” that she plays Wii Golf with her teen children and that she uses Twitter to try to seek advice and support from other tweeters who struggle with being a mother to a schizoaffective child.

Through Twitter, we are able to learn the details about each other that you can only learn from spending a lot of time together. Unfortunately, quality time just isn’t possible for us because of the distance. But thanks to Twitter, giving her a real glimpse into my day is only 140 characters away.

Even if you are still offended at the fact that we are communicating via short sentences (gasp!), there is another side to Twitter that most people are not even aware of. Many people do not use Twitter for social interaction. Soon after joining Twitter, I learned that following friends is only the tip of the Twitter iceberg.

Well over half of the tweeters I follow are local businesses, inspiring writers, favorite bands and local news sources. Unlike the most common misconception of the twilliterate, many tweets don’t actually answer the question “What are you doing?” Rather, tweets are for sharing information in all forms.

When writer/director Rian Johnson (Twitter name: rcjohnso) reads an interesting movie review or has exclusive news about an upcoming film project, he links to it in his tweet. When Eau Claire’s own Living Room coffee house (LivingRoomEC) opens every morning, it tweets its soup of the day and other specials. When Volume One (VolumeOne) adds a new blog entry to its site or finds a fascinating article relevant to Eau Claire, it tweets the headline and includes a link. When the Apple iTunes Trailers site (iTunesTrailers) acquires new movie trailers or clips, it sends out a tweet with titles and links for trailer junkies like me to enjoy.

If you are currently using Twitter and still feel like you are missing the point, you’re probably just following the wrong tweeters. As you can see, the collection of tweets I receive is unique and customized to my interests. The best part is they are all short and sweet.

I might not want to join a mailing list for a business like the Living Room, but I don’t mind receiving Twitter updates. They simply tell me what I need to know about their day-to-day business. If they really need to say more, they can include a link to a longer article on their website or blog, which I can choose to ignore or follow as I see fit. I don’t even have to delete anything – as new tweets are added, the older ones gradually roll out of sight.

Also, just because I choose to follow someone does not mean they have to follow me. In fact, some Tweeters, like my dad, only use Twitter for following. He follows a handful of financial experts and investors for up-to-the-moment stock advice.

Hopefully this helps address the misconception that Twitter is purely an outlet for narcissists and wannabe paparazzi. Rather, it is a customizable hub for sharing and acquiring information. But if you’re still not convinced, do yourself a favor and give Twitter a try. You just might like it.

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