What is Twitter?
Twitter is a new communication tool. Until you use it, you can’t get your head around it. After you use it, there isn’t an easy way to explain it to others. In other words, there is no good metaphor for explaining Twitter to new users, but some people compare it to a cocktail party:
@Replies The @replies are like walking up to someone, and using their name to start a new conversation, or turning to include someone new by using their name.
Direct messages (DMs)A direct message is similar to whispering in someone’s ear, except that in a party setting, you would notice that happening, and on Twitter, that communication is invisible.
Regular tweets In a real party, no one stands around making announcements to the room, or if they do the room quickly clears around them, but posting a comment on Twitter without an @ or a “d” is like talking to the whole room at once.
@Replies and DMs are a great way to talk with important people you would not have access to. For example, I talk to my congress people and to people whose status makes them hard to reach.
I tried Twitter for about a year. At first it was fun and engaging, but after awhile it changed. It seemed like a bunch of people shouting about their product, and no one was listening. I quit using it in the traditional sense.
However, there is one way Twitter can be very helpful. So helpful that I think everyone in the world should be using it to get real-time information.
You don’t even have to sign up to have a Twitter account!
If you go to your browser (you know that blank box at the top of your computer page where you type in things like “Google.com” or “BarnesandNoble.com”) and type in the words search.twitter.com *Don’t type “www” before you type search.twitter.com
It will take you to a Twitter search page.
There you can type in whatever you want to know about. You can even see the top ten topics that people all over the planet are talking about.
Now here’s where it gets fun.
One day my daughter was going to drive to Vail and I worried about the road conditions because the snow was coming down hard in Denver. I couldn’t find much without getting tangled up in CDOT’s web site, and 9 News kept giving me local weather conditions. So I typed the word Vail into the search box. Instantly I could find people tweeting about Vail:
“Wow, there’s no snow at all on Vail pass” and “I’m excited to go skiing in Vail” were the first two I saw. These were total strangers who had mentioned Vail and their news was only a few minutes old. Unlike social media sites like Facebook, I didn’t have to be their friends. I could simply read what they wrote, or if I had a Twitter account, I could put an @ before their name and talk to them.
This is what I did a few weeks ago when Berthoud Pass was closed for avalanche blasting. We were stuck in a condo in Winter Park wondering whether the roads would open in an hour, three hours, or the next morning.
I typed the word Berthoud into the search box and found comments from CDOT workers and other travelers who were in the know. In fact, I found out the pass opened even before CDOT was able to tweet about it. This allowed us to be one of the first ones out the condo door, headed back for Denver in time for the Super Bowl.
Another time, my husband and kids came to pick me up at a seminar and we were headed down a highway in Aurora when traffic came to a standstill. Being on a time constraint before I had to return to the seminar, we didn’t know whether to stay in traffic hoping it would clear, or take the next exit to find a different way home.
I typed the highway number into my search.twitter.com search box and found all kinds of comments from people who were at the scene of a very bad accident. We pulled off at the next exit rather than waiting.
I read a story about a man who couldn’t log into his Gmail account. He didn’t know if the problem was with his computer or Gmail. By going to search.twitter.com he could see all the people tweeting about Gmail and he knew the problem wasn’t with his computer.
How about you?
How have you found Search.Twitter.com to be helpful for your mental health?