Twitter is a social networking site
which encourages users to communicate information using 140 characters or less. Termed 'microblogging' by some, users can express ideas, feelings or news updates in these small messages called 'tweets'. In order to see people's tweets in real time, users can decide to 'follow' the users that interest them.
Twitter is one of the 50 most popular websites worldwide
. It is incredibly easy to create an account - all you need to do to sign up is to enter your email address, full name and a password. Indeed, a lot of Twitter's users are older adults who may not have used social networking sites in the past, which may be a testament to how easy it is to use. It is possible to use Twitter directly through the website, or through your mobile phone. On your account homepage, Twitter asks you 'What's happening?' and you simply type in whatever you like in the box below, and this is then shared with all of the people who are following your updates.
As well as being able to share textual information and links on Twitter
, the Twitpic hosting site ensures that you can also easily tweet photos. This means that if you see something interesting when you are out and about, you can take a picture on your mobile phone and use Twitpic to send it to Twitter. You can then share it with all of your followers in seconds.
Like most other social networking sites, Twitter
allows you to privately message people you are connected to. You can use DM, or Direct Messaging to send a private message to a person who is following you, which will come up in their Direct Messages box. Only the recipient can read this message.
However, Twitter is more than a personal networking site
- it is an information network, where information around the world can be shared quickly and easily. As Twitter has evolved, so too have the number of opportunities for sharing information on the site. Now, you can share not only personal information, but you can also 'retweet' other people's updates, which means simply passing on someone else's tweet to all of your followers. This way, information can spread very quickly across the Twitter network.
In order to see what people are tweeting about
, hashtags have been introduced. By placing a '#' in front of a word or phrase in your tweet, you associate your tweet with a topic or theme. Users can then view worldwide or countrywide trends of what people are tweeting about. So for example, I could tweet an opinion about the '#UK election' - you could then search the '#UK election' trend topic and see what other people have tweeted on the same topic.
Obviously, the first limitation to Twitter is
the fact that in each tweet you are limited to 140 characters. If you are someone who likes to write an essay about what you did today, then perhaps Twitter is not for you! However, many people have said that they like the challenge of fitting what they want to say into a small amount of space and that it makes them think more carefully about what they want to communicate.
Users are not limited by the amount of times they can tweet.
As such, sometimes your tweet feed can be filled with tweets from one overly enthusiastic Twitter user that you are following, which can be annoying. Often, the only solution to this is to stop following the offending person.
Twitter has also been accused of being a site where people share pointless information
- a lot of tweets can be very pointless or mundane, such as what someone had for supper. However, as they are restricted to 140 characters, you can skim-read these tweets very quickly, or simply decide not to take any notice of them at all!
Twitter is a very flexible social networking platform
- it can be very quick and easy to use or you can spend more time and do more complex things on it according to your needs. It is a place where you can bring many sources of manageable chunks of information together - it is then up to you to decide what to do with these.
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