I tend to get very defensive of Twitter. That’s partly because I spend so much time on it myself and get so much out of it, but it’s also because it’s annoying when people form judgments about things despite knowing nothing about them. And that’s just it – this is 2012, people! Twitter is now so much a part of society that there’s no excuse for knowing nothing about it in this day and age. I’ve seen quite a few people on Facebook recently asking ‘what’s the point of Twitter?’. So here are all the compelling reasons why you should join Twitter and why, if you get past your preconceived ideas and get properly involved, you’ll probably find yourself getting far more out of it than you do out of Facebook.
“I don’t have time for Twitter”, I hear you cry
Nonsense! The beauty of Twitter is that everything’s expressed in 140 characters (or fewer). It’s much faster to scan down your Twitter timeline for a quick update on what’s going on than it is to wade through the endless self-involved crap you get on Facebook. You don’t have to read every single tweet, that’s not the point (and if you follow a lot of people, that’s impossible anyway). You just dip in and out when you have a spare moment. And don’t try telling me that writing a tweet is time-consuming.
“But Twitter is just where people give you a boring running commentary of every miniscule aspect of their lives”
What, and Facebook isn’t? At least on Twitter you can easily and unoffensively unfollow people you find boring, while on Facebook, unfriending someone can literally mean a severed friendship. Not to mention that you might not want to unfriend someone just because their updates are boring!
“I already use Facebook for keeping in touch with people, why would I need Twitter as well?”
Facebook and Twitter serve two very different purposes, so if you think of Twitter as a means of keeping in touch with friends, you’re missing the point (although of course that doesn’t preclude following real-life friends on Twitter as well). Most people only accept Facebook friend requests from people they know in real life – their friends (although ‘friend’ is often used in the loosest possible sense). Twitter, on the other hand, is about following, and being followed by, a whole host of different people: those who share your interests, or live locally, celebrities and loads more. Twitter is a far more varied – and consequently, more enriching – experience than the narrow confines of your set of Facebook friends. Facebook is a closed community, while Twitter is open – anyone can see your tweets unless you protect them. The upshot of that is that you’re exposed to a much broader spectrum of life.
‘Follow your interests’
In a recent rebrand, Twitter adopted the motto ‘follow your interests’, which I think is a great way of summarising what Twitter is all about. I follow people who are interested in travel, Rome, writing, SEO, Oxford, the Cotswolds, classical music – all the things I’m interested in. It means I get to keep up to date with what’s going on in Rome when I’m not there. I get to hear the latest Oxford news, events and special offers. I keep up to date with developments in the SEO industry. And much more. All in one place!
Making new friends
I’ve met the loveliest people on Twitter – people with whom I communicate on an almost daily basis. From a solicitor who, it turned out, lives literally just round the corner from me, to an adorable couple from Washington DC, the people I’ve met on Twitter have come from all walks of life and from all over the world. Twitter has taken away the barrier of distance and you can find kindred spirits most unexpectedly. And it’s not limited to online interaction – plenty of new friends I’ve made in real life have started off on Twitter. You get as much out of Twitter as you put into it; I put a lot of my personality into my Twitter account and love spending time chatting with people, and I’ve reaped the rewards. I might add that if I’m feeling down and I tweet about it, I get a lot more support from my Twitter community than I do from my real life ‘friends’ on Facebook.
Enhance your TV experience
I don’t watch a lot of TV, but on the rare occasions I do, I’ll usually be on Twitter while I’m watching – following and contributing to the hashtag for that show and taking part in the banter. A great example is Channel 4’s fantastic fly-on-the-wall documentary The Hotel. Following the hashtag #thehotel, you not only get to enjoy everyone else’s comments on what you’re watching, but you also get the owner of the Grosvenor Hotel himself tweeting along with you. For a start, you wouldn’t get that on Facebook, but can you imagine how annoying it would be for my Facebook friends if I updated my Facebook status multiple times an hour about a show that they weren’t even watching? I’d be unfriended or blocked from news feeds left, right and centre. (As an aside, that’s one of the reasons I think it’s very bad practice to link your Twitter account to your Facebook.)
If you’re super busy like me, Twitter is a great way of keeping up with the news. And you get breaking news stories faster on Twitter than anywhere else. They’ll link to the full article, so you can simply click on the ones you think sound interesting and ignore the rest. During the August riots last year, we even had Thames Valley Police keeping Oxford residents up to date with the action (or lack thereof) in Oxford.
You can even get featured on BBC News!
I’m about to go off at a tangent, but I promise this story has a point. When I was at Oxford I often used to attend speakers and debates at the Oxford Union, and occasionally goings-on at the Union would attract media attention. Sometimes it was because it was someone controversial (they had riot police outside when Nick Griffin attended) and sometimes because it was someone whose public image seemed so extraordinarily at odds with the level of intelligence typically associated with the Union’s hallowed debating chamber. One such speaker was the ‘troubled’ former Atomic Kitten member Kerry Katona. My friend Patrick and I were up to our eyeballs in Finals revision and he suggested it would be a fun break from revision to go and see what Katona had to say for herself. As we took our seats in the chamber, merely feet away from where she was to address the Union members, I tweeted from my iPhone that I was at the Union to see Kerry Katona and made the slightly cutting remark that I was “only attending out of sheer morbid curiosity”. Following her speech I sent some further tweets, with a list of adjectives I’d use to describe her (not all bad!) and that my opinion of her had improved slightly. The next day, I was checking out the BBC News website when I spotted a report on the speech in the Entertainment section. And lo and behold, there were my tweets!
The moral of this story is that with Twitter, you can take an active role in the news. To take a more high profile example, what about the guy who live tweeted the US raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound?
I’m not saying that you should leave Facebook and just use Twitter – both add value in different ways. But don’t be so quick to dismiss Twitter or to judge those of us who use it a lot. If you use it properly, Twitter can be truly life-enhancing.