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?