To tweet or not to tweet?
Baffled by blogging? Fazed by Facebook? Stumped by social networking generally?
Don't despair. Seasoned Twitterer RACHEL LEIGH is here to shed light on what has become the fastest-growing social networking and microblogging service.
“OK. This is now mad. I am stuck in a lift on the 26th floor of Centre Point. Hell’s teeth. We could be here for hours. Arse, poo and widdle.”
Moments later, Stephen Fry, actor, writer, comedian and one of the most well-known celebrity Tweeters, added: “Engineers on their way in 20 minutes apparently” before posting up a picture of himself and the other people unfortunately stuck in the cramped lift.
Stephen Fry was passing on his ‘real time’ thoughts via Twitter, the social networking website which can be accessed through the internet or mobile phones. For those who are unfamiliar with the site, each user has their own profile on Twitter.com where they can post their thoughts within a certain character limit – these are known as ‘tweets’.
You can choose to ‘follow’ other Twitter users to see what they are doing and they can do the same to you. You can tweet anytime you want and your tweets will be accessible to anyone who chooses to follow you, unless you decide to make your tweets private to your own friends list.
It might sound like a simple idea, but it is a phenomenon that has taken social networking to a different level. With 190 million active users tweeting 65 million times a day, Twitter is fast becoming one of the most popular ways to stay in touch with people all across the world.
So what would you write about yourself on Twitter? Perhaps how you are feeling or what you are planning on doing for the day. For someone like me who struggles to even write a few lines about myself, it seems like a lot of effort.
Still, it is a popular site for many people my age - and also for their parents and grandparents. Before she passed away earlier this year, even 104 year old Ivy Bean had got the twitter bug. Her daily tweets from a residential care home in Bradford attracted a worldwide following of more than 56,000 people.’
I decided to ask a few Twitter fanatics what it is that attracts people to the microblogging site.
“I began using Twitter initially because I was intrigued about it – I’d heard a lot of stuff about it through the media and wanted to know what I was missing out on” says Emma Mercer, a graduate from Leicester University. “It is very different from other social networking sites because the interaction with others is totally unique.” But what is it that makes this networking tool so popular?
One night which changed the face of Twitter was during the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008. Within moments of the attacks, Twitter users in India were posting eye witness accounts on the site. The Telegraph reported that 70 tweets were posted on the site every five seconds. While some tweeters were calling for blood donors, others were simply posting messages to let their families know that they were safe. The events were shocking, but they caused social networking sites to reach a new era, as Emma adds: “It is not only a way to update but also an information source. When the plane flew into the Hudson River, the first information and pictures came through Twitter.”
From then on, the Twitter craze continued, with high profile celebrities joining in: “Woo hoo I’m gonna be a mummy!” tweeted singer and X Factor Judge Danni Minogue in January. American actor and comedian Jim Carrey announced he was separating from his partner: “Jenny and I have just ended our five-year relationship. I'm grateful for the many blessings we’ve shared and I wish her the very best! S'okay!”
While some celebrities have shared landmark moments in their lives on Twitter, others have chosen to broadcast the most trivial parts of their day to their millions of followers: “Just got home. Flew on V Australia. I think these planes might be the most comfortable planes I have ever been on” posted Britney Spears, breathlessly.
More fun by half and twice as interesting as Britney's outpourings is the‘Tower Bridge’ Twitter account: “I am opening for the MV Balmoral, which is passing downstream” the famous bridge tweeted.
But it’s not just celebrity impact that is making Twitter so popular, as Lucy Perry, an English graduate from the University of Sheffield, admits: “I originally joined Twitter to see what celebrities wrote, to know the latest, but when I lost interest in celebrities in general I began to sort out my Twitter and found people through topic interest. I just find it interesting that you can share a joke with like-minded people or agree with someone about something annoying without having a whole conversation about it. It’s a bit of light relief!”
During their 40 minute ordeal trapped in the lift, Stephen Fry and his fellow prisoners were kept amused by the thousands of jokes and escape suggestions they received from Twitter followers: “Your brilliant comments are keeping us all (hysterically) cheerful. Last I heard engineers still on their way” he tweeted before being rescued and offered champagne when they got to the bottom.
So next time you find yourself stuck in a lift or in an equally awkward situation, why not Tweet about it? A fellow Tweeter might know the perfect one-liner to bring a smile to your face.
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