What’s the point of Twitter?

I read an interesting article on Crave today about the huge variety of ways people use Twitter. Many people who are sceptic of the one of the biggest social media phenomena are probably not approaching it with an open mind. I initially saw it as pointless ramblings; a vent for self-obsessed people who love the ‘sound’ of their own voice. It seemed to be a stripped-down version of Facebook, as all you could do with your profile was post 140 characters.

After a few months, I thought it’d give it another go. I was told by a friend that I should ‘follow’ interesting people and I quickly began to build my own collection…Jason Manford, Marcus Brigstock, Charlie Brooker, David Mitchell…even Darth Vader. As well as comedians, I added websites and newspapers I found interesting; Wired, Gizmodo, Radio 4, Engadget etc. It is surprising how many of your regularly visited news sources are tweeting away. I began to use Twitter as my own RSS-feeder, albeit with the added advantage of being seasoned with funny quotes from my favourite comedians and giving me the ability to ‘micro-blog’. The ‘re-tweet’ or RT, means that you can re-post something you find interesting/funny/exciting at the touch of a button.
I think an essential ingredient in ensuring you enjoy using Twitter is using it on a mobile platform. I can’t be bothered to head to the Twitter website when I’m at my desk; I might as well go to the actual news source or I’ll be busy doing something else. However, using Twitterfic on your iPhone when you’ve nothing else to do gives you a quick burst of opinions about the day’s events and allows you to re-tweet what you find interesting yourself. I’ve also embedded my Twitter updates on my blog, as you can see on the right-hand side.
If you haven’t embraced Twitter yet, read the article below and see if you should give it another go.
“If you use Twitter, you’ll almost certainly have had to deal with this question, maybe down the pub, maybe at work, maybe from your parents: “What’s the bloody point?” At this point your interrogator may well mention what you had for breakfast, and txt spk, and Stephen Fry. So we asked our users what they used Twitter for, and the answers were so varied and interesting that we just had to share.

We asked 540 self-selecting CNET UK readers whether they used Twitter and what they thought of it. 59 per cent used it, 31 per cent didn’t and 11 per cent have used it in the past but don’t any more.

Our readers had a wide range of reasons for using Twitter. By far the most popular was entering competitions — retweeting is a common way of doing so. Keeping in touch with friends and famous people was common, specifically favourite bands or sportspeople. Some people used the trends feature to keep up to date with current affairs, such as Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time.

Some use it for chat — direct messages and @replies make it a “massive chat room”, according to one reader. This informal communication incorporates open invites — “going to the pub in an hour, anyone interested?” one reader generously invited us — or posting jokes or overheard comments. One reader said it was “almost a replacement for SMS”.

Others used it in place of other online services. “I use it to follow news from various companies and organisations. It has become my RSS reader,” said one respondent. Another said, “I use it for posting links to my blog that don’t merit the effort of opening Live Writer or Word Press Dashboard.”

We asked those who don’t use Twitter why not. One made a very interesting point about its reliability as a news source. During the Iran election, the reader said, “…everyone on there is screeching how people are being axed to death in the street, people are being crushed, and there’s this real sense that this is immediate and important, but then you go over to a reputable news source and they’re unanimously reporting quiet non-violent demonstrations at the exact same places the twittersphere says are ablaze.

“It made the whole forum look hysterical,” the reader continued. “As with all of Web 2.0, the failing is that it relies upon a human capacity to converse rationally that humans are seldom capable of without the enforced accountability of talking face-to-face.”

Others put their objections more bluntly. “Who wants to talk to a load of strangers about what boring things you have been doing and get their banal and boring day in return?” asked one in reply. “What’s the bloody point?” was a real response, and neatly summed up the general feeling among non-users.

Twitter certainly has limitations as a form of communication, but at least we’ve answered that last question.”


PS. My twitter name is @joebycro.
Via Crave.
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