Caroline is 16 years old and is from Long Island, NY. She likes to listen to music, write, and hang out with her friends in her spare time. She is interested in following a major in English or Psychology.
Social networking websites. By now, you think you’ve heard of them all: your daughter needs to check her Facebook. Your son wants a Myspace account. Even you, as a parent, may have ventured onto Livejournal once or twice. Then one day, you’re watching the evening news when you hear of a celebrity “tweeting” something. But this tweet has nothing to do with a bird – it’s simply a slang word used to accompany the latest craze in social networking, Twitter.
Twitter (www.twitter.com) is simple enough to understand. A user can post text-based updates of up to 140 characters, answering the question “What are you doing right now?” The updates are received by followers – people who subscribe to a user’s updates. A Twitter account can be updated through the website, through text messages, or other platforms. Twitter has often been called “the SMS of the Internet” because of its simple texting interface.
Although Twitter was founded in 2006, it was relatively unheard of until this year. In February 2009, Twitter was reported as the third most-used social network, with a reported growth of 1,382%. What’s causing the sudden popularity? There are five possible explanations:
1. Celebrity Use. Much of what society does is based upon what celebrities do. Clothing and hair trends are copied from celebrities, and so are Internet trends. As more celebrities (such as Ashton Kutcher, Ellen DeGeneres and Britney Spears, who are the most followed users on Twitter) join Twitter, more of society joins Twitter in order to follow the celebrity updates.
3. It’s a way to spread news quickly. In a recent case, a woman on line at a bank began tweeting that the bank had been robbed. She became an instant celebrity, giving updates about the bank and that the police had captured the criminals.
4. You can get the bare, basic facts. Because of the 140 character limit, users have to carefully decide how to word their updates, thus eliminating all unnecessary descriptions and words. In today’s fast-paced society, this simplicity is desirable; no need to waste time skimming and re-skimming paragraphs when you can get the 140-character summary.
5. It’s fun! Whether you’re into business, marketing or celebrities, Twitter has something for everyone. Business people can connect to other marketers and communicate, thanks to Twitters “@ reply” system. Advertisers will find the “Trending Topics” column useful – it shows the most-Tweeted topics of the day. And for teens like me, it’s fun to search our favorite celebrities and find out what they’re up to!
Even if you don’t join Twitter, it is a great way to communicate and socialize online without the added frills of Facebook or Myspace.