Using Twitter

I’ve been an ardent fan and promoter of all social networking sites for a long time now. I’ve brought many people to twitter and I’ve even setup my own local server. However, in light of recent news surrounding twitter, I feel it necessary to inform the people I know about the hazards of using twitter without care. Here’s why:

Twitter is a mass communication medium. It’s falls under the same category as a television channel, a news site or even a printed newspaper. As with all mass communication devices, it can and is being misused. I’m not talking about spammers here. I’m talking about the use of the media as a (to put it mildly) opinion shifter. You keep listening to a news channel long enough, you begin to follow their line of reasoning. You keep reading a newspaper long enough, you begin to believe the perspective of the editor. Similarly, if you follow your political news on twitter, you begin to think like the 10% of the twitter “actives” before you know it. (I got that 10% from @erictpeterson’s talk at the “140 characters conference” on twitter.) Twitter is one of the most convenient brainwashing tools if you’re in that 10%.

So, when you use twitter, here are my suggestions:

  1. Use twitter for your own domain only. Use it to communicate with your friends, follow the leaders in the area that you’re familiar with. Do not follow news sites! For me, I follow only computer scientists, bloggers and physics review sites.  Things I know I can trust my own logic and knowledge with.
  2. Tread with care around controversial issues. See everything with skepticism.

These are the two golden rules I follow for any mass communication media. For twitter, they’re just as important.