I just finished reading an article titled, “How Do You Actually Use Twitter?” and was inspired to let all one of you out there reading this how I use Twitter. Before I continue, let me say that I came across this article in a tweet by @TweetGardenEU, a project from Vattel, designed to “[build and support] social media presence in Brussels policysphere.”
I actually didn’t have a Twitter account until this past September, when I was considering researching how political parties in the U.S. use Facebook and Twitter. My sole purpose for using Twitter was that project, and I followed only political parties. As it turned out, I was not that interested in the topic at the time and shifted my research to the reaction by the House and Senate Democrats to the New START treaty. So, my venture into Twitter lasted about eight weeks.
Then in January, the State of the Union came along, and with it came Twitter. One of the courses I teach is on government and politics, and so the SOTU naturally fits into that curriculum. As I was gearing up for the SOTU, I noticed that the White House had a week’s worth of Twitter chats lined up. I thought to myself, “I have Twitter account, I should try it,” and it’s been all downhill ever since.
As a high school teacher, I’ve noticed that my students are quite adept at using social media. The problem for the vast majority of them is that they use it for, in the words of the article, “fluff.” I like to joke with them that most of their tweets run along the lines of “Why doesn’t he/she like me? #mylifesucks.” The White House Twitter chats were a perfect opportunity for me to show them a productive way of using social media. Now, I bring Twitter into the classroom when I can to give them more examples of positive ways to use it. For example, when I saw on the @WhiteHouseLive feed that President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron were going to give a briefing today, I told my students, and we watched it as a class. Many of my students were surprised that I had an account and a few quickly followed me; however, when they realized how exactly I use Twitter, they dropped like the flies on my desk at the beginning of the school year.
I use Twitter as a constant news feed. Almost all of the accounts I follow fall into a handful of categories: journalist, scholar/topic expert, think tank, news publication, political party, government official, and government institution. As such the overwhelming majority of my tweets deal with IR and EU news. The only celebrities I follow are Steve Martin and Bill Amend (creator of the best comic strip on the planet, FoxTrot).
In the past two months since the SOTU, I have become addicted to Twitter ( I could quit tomorrow though, really I could). It is my connection to others with similar interests and gives me a chance to voice my opinion or just share an article I found interesting. In that short period of time, I’ve been able to connect and tweet with professors, think tankers, and government officials from not only the U.S., but also Europe. I’m not that concerned that I have only 43 followers (as of today); I just enjoy reading other people’s thoughts and getting mine out there.
And that is how I use Twitter. How do you use it?
3 thoughts on “How I use Twitter”
I used to not believe in Twitter, it felt like a weird Google Reader (for RSS feeds) with much more noise and clutter. Now I think it is fun-da-men-tal. For things like:
* Keeping track of people you like, famous or not.
* Interacting with people (the famous “@”) and sharing with them (all nicely transparent).
* Following events (a must!!!, the famous “#”). If you follow #euco during European Council summits, for example, you will be virtually as well informed of latest developments as the hacks hanging out in the Justus Lispsius waiting for our dear leaders’ chats to finish. Also a good way of seeing who else is interested in a given event and getting in touch with them (good for sources).
* General sharing/self-publicization.
* I also use it as a kind of archive of articles I find interesting.
Can live without it anymore! It’s one of my essentials like Facebook, Gmail, Google Reader..
Once again, thanks for reading my blog. I really like the idea of connecting like-minded people across the world. Seeing as how as I deal with teenagers for 9 hours each day, Twitter is my breath of fresh air each morning before school and at night after my kids are in bed. Of course, since most of the accounts I follow are based in Europe, I have a large number of tweets each morning to read due to the time difference.
I also agree with the importance of using Twitter to follow events; that was how I began really using Twitter (White House chats during the week of the State of the Union). Since then, I’ve been able to participate in Twitter chats with US think tanks (Brookings has had some good ones), the US Ambassador to NATO (Ivo Daalder), and European organizations (ex: Debating Europe). If the chats are during the school day and are relevant to my curriculum, I try to involve my class in the chats. For the most part, they find it fascinating that they can “interact” with our leaders/officials/scholars.
Could Twitter chats be a way for EU institutions to begin to take on the so-called democratic deficit?
[…] you go back to one of my first blog pieces, “How I Use Twitter,” you’ll see that I began actively using Twitter to participate in a White House […]