Why Twitter?

Why Twitter?

I like media in all shape and forms. I considered becoming a journalist for a reason and in part it’s also the reason why I blog. I love to write and am interested in how messages are spread around the world, including how language use contributes to the spread of said message. One medium that I find particularly interesting is Twitter. More and more research is being done on Twitter and more often than not, the findings of these studies make me wonder: Why do we use Twitter the way we do? Why do we use Twitter at all?

I find these kind of questions interesting and hence I wrote one of my major papers of the past year on Twitter. So when I came across this article (on Twitter by the way) from Time Magazine I was naturally interested in what it was about.

What’s the point of Twitter by Graeme McMillan

What’s the point of Twitter?

That’s a question I asked my own Twitter followers yesterday, prompted by ambivalence and confusion after reading two recent Pew Institute studies relating to what was once called a “micro-blogging” service. Don’t get me wrong; I know why I am addicted, but I doubted that many other people saw Twitter as the necessary delivery system to force people to watch videos of old Monkees songs or whatever Britpop reference happened to be floating in my head at that particular moment.

So I asked everyone else, and got what was a surprisingly coherent response.


When I asked my own followers why they were on Twitter, it wasn’t long before patterns in interest became apparent. Twitter appealed because it was informal, because it was concise, and because it was conversational. One person called it “the world’s best self-selecting cocktail party [with] fast breaking news, good conversation, low commitment,” with another replying that “it’s either the watercooler or the watering hole, depending on which metaphor you wanna run with.”

“Twitter is far less time-consuming [than other social media],” said a friend, “plus the 140-character limit forces people to be more concise and clever.”

“Twitter is, for me, a conversational medium where I select those I converse with while ignoring barriers of class, age and locale,” wrote another.

And that makes me wonder (I wonder a lot if you haven’t notice yet): how do I use Twitter?
  1. I keep in touch with friends and family.
  2. Keep up with the news. Who still needs a news paper nowadays is so 1999!
  3. Better news selection. I dot like keeping up with the world news, but it’s not my main interest. I like reading about language, social media and music. You can’t find much on that in regular media.
  4. Gain information through said news selection.
  5. Share links that interest me.
  6. Promote my blog.
  7. Ask questions about online shopping. Many online shops have Twitter accounts that are used to answer your questions.
  8. Stay up-to-date on train delays.
  9. Connect with famous people (celebrities/ politicians). I don’t have a long list of celebrities I like to follow, but only a handful and I usually follow them because I think they are funny or have great opinions.
  10. Stay in touch with people who I otherwise wouldn’t stay in touch with. I find it a very handy tool to stay connected to people whose phone numbers/ (email) address/ facebook you don’t have, yet if you want to ask them something you still can.

So that leaves me with only one question to ask: How do YOU use Twitter? Same reason as me? Or do you have anything to add to my not-so-extensive list?


6 thoughts on “Why Twitter?

  1. I guess I’m an old soul, then. I don’t have Twitter, I don’t have an iPhone or even a smartphone, and I actually enjoy picking up newspapers and magazines. Also, grammar and spelling are my pet peeves and I think Twitter promotes ways to spell that annoy the living daylight out of me.

  2. Maybe because of the 140-character limitation. I noticed people tend to write words in a sort of text-message kind of way. I mean, they don’t bother writing full words anymore and seem to forget how to spell correctly in general, even in an e-mail, which is extremely frustrating for me, especially professionally. Unless the person loves reading, but even that seems to become a lost art.

  3. Research indeed shows that people adapt their language to accommodate their message to the character limits in texting (and thus I also think when using Twitter). However, no proof has been found that people have become worse at language because of that. If they are making mistakes on other platforms it’s because they are lazy, not because they don’t know or aren’t capable of using correct language.

    I am not against Twitter, text – or net speak, as I think it also enriches language. In the end spelling is just an agreement made to enhance reading, but language in itself is a living thing that is as fickle and therefore as variational as us: the human beings who use it. Therefore ‘mistakes’, variations and oddities will occurs no matter what we do.

    As a language teacher I encourage my students to write correctly and spell accordingly, but just the other day I read a message on Twitter of someone who was not hired for a job as her correct spelling proved her to be too old for the job. Now that, to me, is far worse than the occasional spelling error on Twitter.

  4. I am not against Twitter or text messages either. It’s just that, so far as I’m concerned, I find it extremely annoying when people don’t bother trying to spell correctly, especially in a professional environment.

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