“An Old Lady and the Internet”… Or, “I try to figure out Twitter, Part One.”

I’m pretty far behind when it comes to Internet trends. It took me a while to become active on Facebook, and that’s where my social media interaction stopped. And believe it or not, I’m still rocking the old-school flip phone.

It’s not that I’m bad with technology, or that I’m ideologically opposed to the new age of communication. I just didn’t think it was a big deal. I didn’t think I needed to be connected any more than I was.

The shock came first when I was told that I needed to create a Twitter for my job at the campus writing center (@sjuwrites). I made one, followed them, and let the account sit there. Then it kept coming up in class – in every class. Everyone had a Twitter. A guest speaker told us we all needed professional Twitters. I attended an event on campus about #jesuischarlie. My teachers even had Twitters, and they told the class which news sources to follow.

If my teachers are more hip than I am, what’s going on? It was an uncomfortable revelation. Especially as someone who is interested in journalism, I realized that I was truly living in an outdated world. I was naively pretending that I did not need to become part of the crowd. The more I thought about it, the more I recognized how far behind I had fallen.

So here begins my experiment. Every other week, I’m going to try something new, either on Twitter or on other social media, and I’m going to blog about it.

This week: using Twitter for news. I followed a few of my friends, but then just followed every single (campus, local, national) news source I could think of. I decided not to visit their websites anymore, as part of the experiment, and instead rely on Twitter to tell me what’s going on in the world.

My first problem dealt with information. There’s no lack of it online – in fact, there’s a little bit too much. And on Twitter, the problem is complete consolidated. How am I supposed to sort through an endless stream of news articles? It’s intimidating and off-putting. Am I expected to just randomly chance upon something crazy? Am I supposed to rely on an extraordinary event being “re-tweeted,” thus showing up endlessly all over my stream? As a journalist, that’s simply not acceptable. Somebody help me out! Tell me in the comments how you (if you do) manage to find what’s important out of everything that pops up at you.

Here’s what I tried: I call it the homework strategy. It’s basically my strategy for everything fun: do homework for 20 minutes, then do something else for 5 or 10. With Twitter, I just kept the window open as I sat in front of the computer reading James Joyce. Still, it was overwhelming. I’d look up after 20 minutes of reading to sometimes 20 or more new tweets to sort through.

On the other hand, I do think this is better than checking specific news outlets every day. It’s just as exhausting to try to read through CNN’s front page, then switching over to The NY Times, or the Washington Post, BBC. At least on Twitter, everything is in one place, accessible and directly comparable.

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What I’m considering doing is, instead of following “CNN,” JUST following “CNN Breaking News.” I don’t need articles about how to find love for Valentine’s Day, or an update on what’s going on in this season’s “The Bachelor.” I just want to know the major news that I need to be able to get through the day.

Same thing for all my sources. NYT has a “New York Times World” handle that I think would be more beneficial. They also have “New York Times Live,” with “In-depth Twitter curation of major news stories by New York Times editors.” Hmm. It’s hard to know. Where is the website that tells me what Twitter accounts are the best ones to follow?

Side note: is this experience different for people with smartphones? Is it better to have all of this right at your fingertips? Further side note: If that’s true, then what about people who can’t afford to buy and use a smartphone? What does that say about equal opportunity?

Anyways, I’m enjoying it. It provides a nice homework break, even when I’m horrible confused. I feel like the elderly lady talking about “kids and their tweetys.” Next time I write about Twitter, I hope to be a little less out of the loop. I’ll let you know!

Be on the lookout for the next segment in this series: a discussion of Twitter as a force for social movement…or not? I guess I’ll have to follow some actual people to find out.


Posted in: Intellectual Curiosities, Student Life

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