Twitter is an annoying little tool, kind of like a little kid who follows you around, nattering at you until you want to chew your own arm off, but then goes away and leaves you wondering where he is, what he's doing, and when he'll be back. And I want to kick something every time I hear new words added to the lexicon of social networking, like Tweets, Twitterati, and Twoosh. But I've got to give it this: it's amazingly useful for getting the word out about all things You. Before I get into the whys and wherefores, just let me rant a bit. Just a teensy, weensy rant, because while Twitter's a useful servicee and all, it first led me to ponder the deep, eternal question, "What is it all for, really?" with the resultant answer, "Nothing good." I deleted my account and went through the five stages of grief before I figured out why it's such a screaming success.
Twitter is the social networking site for minimalists. No photos, no videos, no "Which alcoholic drink are you?" quizzes. Each post is ridiculously (some might say thankfully, or intriguingly) short: only 140 characters are allowed, EVER. Which is irritating if you're a blowhard and have a lot to shout about, because you have to use multiple posts and that's just abusing the system and will get you un-followed pretty damn fast. If you don't set up your account right you view bizarre, incomprehensible, one-sided conversations because unlike Facebook you aren't privy to the previous posts. So you might see something like this: "@easb I was thinking about it." Then you wonder who easb is, and maybe follow her to catch the other side of the conversation, because whose curiosity wouldn't be peaked? Soon you've got a migraine from jumping from one person to the other to follow a conversation that's actually not that interesting anyway. People you really want to follow, though, are often missed: posts scroll right on by and drop off your page when you're not looking, so you're always vaguely aware that you're missing something. Then there's the problem of followers: how do you get them? Or why do you get only the weirdos who follow anyone and eventually have their accounts suspended for suspicious activity? What if all of your friends are on Facebook and wouldn't bother with Twitter if you paid them, so you have no followers on Twitter and feel like a total loser?
Of course, there are settings to take care of problems like this. You can pick and choose who to "listen to" so you don't miss tweets by people you really want to follow. You can decide to follow no one and tweet into the void. You can turn Twitter into a public art project, like this one. Or, you can come to a new way of thinking about Twitter, which is what I did.
The revelation? Twitter is the world's best bulletin board. A library program like SUs can tweet to students about coming events, canceled classes, location changes, awards received and so on. Students who join Twitter can have tweets from the program sent directly to their cell phones. Need to cancel a class? Tweet about it, and students get the message. Special event? Twitter will keep them in the know. Fire in the ischool? Twitter will save their skins! Need to lighten the mood? How about haikus for worn out Future Librarians?
Never fear, student
Thanksgiving break is coming
Golden turkey waits
That's 66 characters, perfect for cell phones.
Click here for an example of a Twitter account for the MSLIS program.