“You win, Twitter. Whats the Score here? Whats next?”
Channeling the late great Hunter S. Thompson, I put my first Tweet out into the world. Nothing happened. I stared at my screen half expecting the mayor of Twitterville to come out wearing a white top-hat and give me a tour of the town. Didn’t happen. I thought I would be rubbing shoulders with celebrities the next day. My friends are still all idiots and none of them have mansions or yachts. What did happen, is a whole world of information opened up to me that, up until now, I had made a point to avoid at all costs.
The impersonal nature of social media, as well as the extreme neediness and narcissism so often displayed by its denizens, was off-putting to me. When I started watching social media from afar, the merciless harassment from internet trolls, “hashtag activism,” and incessant whining over the most trivial things made me want to throw my computer through a window. However, social media is the way the world is going, so whether you’re on the boat or off of it, the digital stream will continue to flow.
And flow it has. Information on almost any topic you can think of can be had with a click or a tap. After doing some poking around, I found Twitter accounts for virtually all my interests. The New York Times, NPR, Reuters, and the BBC account for my hard news. I can follow Phish (the greatest band on the planet, if you were unaware) and each member of the band if I wanted (that is a little too creepy and “tweenish” for me, though). I follow my favorite sports teams as well as the top blogs dedicated to each. I can follow artists and galleries to discover their latest works, and individual journalists who are “on the ground.” I still don’t understand why someone would want to follow Wheat Thins or Dove soap, but that is a blog post for another day.
The world of science has never been so accessible. There are an endless supply of science related Twitter accounts; NASA, Phys.Org and Neil deGrasse Tyson’s personal account for my space and quantum nerds. As well as National Geographic, Nature and the Nature Conservancy for all my animal lovers. For me, laughter is the best sound in the world (except Fran Drescher), and Twitter has comedy by the barrel. The Onion, Bill Burr, and many others have Twitter accounts that will provide some levity to the grim, meathook realities that so often come scrolling through your newsfeed.
Twitter is the entire world happening in real time, on your desk. The news diet made available by the likes of Twitter, Facebook, and Feedly has turned many people into news gluttons who gorge themselves on terrorist attacks, political speeches, natural disasters and celebrity gossip.
The important thing for journalists to remember, is filtering the incoming flood of information so as to avoid the “empty calories.” When everyone is able to share everything, you are going to be exposed to some fascinating stuff, but most of it is little more than fodder for the N.S.A. to needlessly store on underground servers in Utah.
The truth is, Tweets should be read more like food advertisements, rather than food labels. An advertisement may pique your interest, but it is not obligated to tell you everything you need to know, and may even be misleading. It is up to you to go to the store and read the label.