A friend invited me to join Twitter right after Twitter was founded in 2006. Because I couldn't figure out what it would be good for, I didn't join. In 2010, Twitter exploded into fashion, and I got on, reluctantly. I still couldn't figure out what a person could do in just 140 characters. Especially a gasbag like me, who needs 500 words just to say hello to my wife in the morning.
I can't imagine life without Twitter now. It's my go-to information and communication source. I use it more than Facebook, and I like it better than Facebook, too.
On Monday, I learned about the Boston Marathon bombings on Twitter--and Twitter was buzzing for more than half-an-hour before CNN issued its first bulletin. I've heard it said that on Twitter, you know what's happening, and on TV, you learn what happened--a subtle difference, but an important one. Since Twitter is so personal, it's a great way to find out what other people are seeing, hearing, and reading about a news event, and to add to your own knowledge of that event while it's happening.
But it's important not to believe everything you read. A lot of misinformation got spread on Monday. Somebody tweets something, somebody else retweets it, a third person retweets the retweet, and before you know it, the "something" is everywhere--even when it turns out to be wrong. A tweet is not journalism. Journalists are supposed to check with sources and verify their information before they publish it, and are encouraged to be skeptical: "If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out," they say. But in world of modern news-gathering, the pressure to be first often outweighs the desire to be right--which is how CNN got so badly burned when they reported an arrest in the Boston bombings on Wednesday when there was no such thing.
When the world is calmer and quieter, Twitter is a lot of fun. I follow musicians I enjoy, comedians and actors I like, radio people I know, and friends, as well as sources of news and sports information I trust. And I crack wise on it myself. So give it a try. And if you do, follow me. My handle is ja_bartlett.