…is how little we know about it yet.
The first time I heard of Twitter was through a friend of mine shortly after we witnessed a traffic accident. A skateboarder bumped into a moving car, and as the ambulance arrived to gently lift him from the pavement on a stretcher, my friend pulled out his cellphone and mumbled something about needing to “tweet.”
I immediately shot an offended look in his direction, because I thought at first that he was going to snap a picture of the carnage with his cellphone camera.
“No,” he said. “I’m going to tweet about the accident, and how it’s blocking the main road on campus.”
I was dumbfounded. Was Twitter some sort of traffic-monitoring device? What exactly did people use this new social website for?
As we walked away from the scene, my friend’s cellphone beeped and buzzed. A fellow Twitter friend already messaged him, “Thanks, dude. I’m stuck about half a block back and was wondering what was going on.”
Time to Tweet
Months later, I joined the Twitter community as user mlaroux.
At first, I wasn’t quite sure what to tweet about. Surely my life was somewhat interesting, but it wasn’t worth tweeting about its every moment. The step-by-step ego status messages of Facebook users used to drive me nuts.
There must be a better way to use Twitter and our new ability to tweet, I thought.
So I started off slowly. First, I identified my fellow Twitter users among my group of friends. Then I found my twittering family members.
This made sense – Twitter was a social networking tool, and not all my friends or family lived in the same state. I could be in contact with them again using another Internet medium. This was fantastic.
But then I realized I was using Twitter no differently than someone using Facebook or MySpace.
I was dropping tiny messages here and there that were no more profound than “how are you” and “what are you doing?” There had to be other uses for this social network, I just needed to uncover and learn them.
Searching Other Tweets
So I started searching. One great thing about Twitter is its easy search feature – I could find others and see what they were doing, and what tweet ideas they’d come up with.
My search engine keyword? I couldn’t help it: writing.
First, I found writing communities whose sole purpose was to create prompts where people could add more and more words to a growing string of tweets. It was almost as if it were a collaboration of authors writing a book together with nothing but the occasional tweet.
I found companies tweeting away promotions and services. I found RSS-like feeds of writing jobs in the D.C. area as posted on craigslist. I found university writing centers posting their hours of availability to any university Twitter users.
But there was no one pattern or discernible trend – Twitter was Twitter, and everyone was using it differently except for one, single purpose: communication.
It’s so imperfect, it’s absolutely perfect.
What’s next for Twitter, like so many other online media, is almost impossible to predict. Media creators and users alike don’t know the final outcomes of the tools they create or play with – and that’s just fine.
It’s all about pushing that snowball down hill, and hoping it gets there safetly instead of crushing dozens of the unwary in some sort of destructive path.
In the future, my plan is to network myself more and more with innovative Twitter users, and come up with my own ideas as well. It seems that we have a fairly limitless medium here – so as someone that loves to write and communicate, Twitter is a tool for any aspiring journalist… even if it’s just to sit back and watch the tweets flow by.