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Twitter Is Not Dumb

most people talking about Twitter don’t seem to get it

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by Mike Paulus illustrated by Beth Czech

Let’s just get this out of the way right now: I like Twitter.* I use it every day at work, and besides finding it tremendously useful for my job, I just like it. It’s fun. And no matter how many cheap, off-base “Twittertracker” gags Conan O’Brien makes, I’ll stand by my affection for the service.

When discussing Twitter, most journalists (and most beer-buzzed barroom loudmouths for that matter) boil it down to two things. The first thing cited is inane, masturbatory ramblings about one’s self, usually made by a celebrity, and how stupid all that is. They are right about this. Shaquille O’Neal’s’s Twitter feed is utterly insane. I, too, dislike people (no matter how famous) who babble on and on about their mundane life. But this kind of thing is nothing new – and the internet has been making masturbatory self-aggrandizing as easy as 1-2-3 for over a decade now. So who cares if people are doing it on Twitter, too?

When talking about Twitter, anyone talking about how stupid a post like “OMG this bagel is rocking my world, off to work LOLZ” is … well, they’re kind of missing the point. The people who are realizing Twitter’s potential are not the people who care about what’s on Ashton Kutcher’s mind, and they’re not the people just using Twitter to talk about themselves. They’re using Twitter to listen as well as talk. And they’re listening to important stuff.

The other thing most journalists now cite when discussing Twitter is Iran. You heard about Iran and Twitter, right?

The one useful thing most people cite when discussing the service is the role it played in last month’s turbulent Iranian presidential election. See, when Iran held their elections in June, all hell broke loose. As in, the armed forces were called in to do some unrest settling. In an effort to control their national image, the Iranian government jammed cell phone communication and text messages, and they blocked access to social networking sites like Facebook. But Twitter emerged as a way for people right there in the middle of it all to tell the world what was happening. That was awesome.

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