I often find myself having to justify why I am a regular user of Facebook and Twitter. The haters see both as a waste of time and a potential violation of privacy. They also think that spending time on such media is time better spent actually, you know, talking to your friends. But, to this last point – I find that these media actually enhance friendships rather than reduce them, and can actually lead to you making friends with people you wouldn’t necessarily expect to. And in the crazy sectarian microcosm that is Auckland, that is no bad thing.
However, Twitter tends to be the one that comes in for the most bashing. ‘Anything worth saying can’t be said in 140 characters’, people say. And trust me, the 140 character rule does try my patience sometimes as (and regular blog readers will know this) I am not so good with the being succinct. But others more talented than me have it down pat. But Twitter isn’t just about light little nuggets of humour or gossip. It is also a great way of keeping up with what is happening in the world – be it actually news worthy (the US elections) or Jessica news worthy (the release of the latest Star Trek trailer). You can follow news organisations that will ensure that you are immediately alerted to breaking news – and can jump straight from their tweet into their detailed story about the event. And you can also follow what the public are saying about news stories – which is often just as interesting as what the media is saying. Especially if the people you choose to follow are of the intelligent and witty sort.
Twitter really came into its own for me during the US Presidential election last year. Through pure accident rather than anything else – and some would say it is symptomatic of the fact that most of the people I follow are movie-related people – most of the discussion was from the democratic angle – with some wild card republicans thrown in there for a laugh. Through this I discovered the truly brilliant Joss Whedon Zombie Apolocypse ad (which if you haven’t seen you should watch now), Lena Dunham’s My First Time ad and also the meaning behind ‘binders full of women’. I didn’t need to watch the debates on TV – they unfolded in front of me via Twitter, and it was a truly entertaining thing.
And I think the word ‘entertainment’ is key here. If I actually wanted to find out about something serious – and the real facts about something serious – I wouldn’t rely solely on Twitter – I would go straight to a news source. However…(yep, you can see it coming can’t you? Another rant about the media!) I do find it immensely frustrating that the media have taken to filling a news story with tweets and calling it a story. Sure, to an extent reaction on Twitter can replace a ‘Joe Public’ interview on the street – but these types of things should be used as an addendum to a story – not make up the whole story itself. When it comes to celebrity stories I can understand how the worlds get blurred however, as Twitter is really the only place that famous people can speak for themselves and direct to their fans. So extracts from Twitter can work in that context. But in reporting on the Auckland ‘Earthquake’ last week Stuff.co.nz had an ENTIRE story that was just twitter reaction. And it was billed as a news story. But then, maybe there is more to be said about how Stuff isn’t really a news site so should stop calling itself one.
But I digress. Twitter keeps me entertained and informed. Without it I would never have become a fan of the TV show Girls, would never have fully appreciated how funny Wil Wheaton (Sheldon’s nemisis on The Big Bang Theory) is, would not have discovered the joy and wonder of the weekly Empire Podcast, and would never have had a picture I took retweeted to 27,000 people. Yes, you read that right. I follow a few authors I am fans of, one of them being Laini Taylor (author of Daughter of Smoke and Bone) and another being Kathy Reichs (author of the Temperance Brennan crime novels). I tweeted Kathy a picture of her latest book on the beach in the Bay of Islands, commenting that I was about to start reading it in one of the most picturesque spots in the world. And she retweeted it to all 27,000 of her followers. And THAT was pretty cool. And lesson number 1 for me in ‘Being a cool author to your fans if you ever get published’ – I tweeted Laini when I finished her second novel raving about how good it was, and she responded saying thanks and how much she appreciated it. See, it’s little things like than which make a fan into a hard core fan. Nice work ladies 🙂
So, for all of you out there wondering ‘why bother with Twitter?’, hopefully the above has given you some food for thought. And remember it isn’t just for movie geeks like me. Regardless of what you are into – be it cooking, travelling or (god forbid) tiddlywinks – you are bound to find some like minded souls to commune with in the Twittersphere. So go forth and Tweet people. You won’t regret it 😉