The Real Reasons To Use Twitter (Get Over Your Prejudice Already)

Posted by Artem Russakovskii on April 9th, 2009 in Technology, Twitter

Updated: May 22nd, 2009



Let’s face it – the majority of the population doesn’t understand twitter. They don’t get its true value – all they see is an obnoxious social network full of exhibitionists tweeting about millions of mundane things of every minute of their lives.

Except, twitter is much, much more than that. In addition to all the wankers talking about themselves 24/7, of course. Twitter is what you make it to be. You can follow boring, uninteresting people with interests in growing cactuses (cacti?) and collecting fur balls. But you can also follow people sharing piles of interesting and useful information (see bullet points below). Just do me one favor and repeat after me: twitter is not only for publishing your detailed crapping schedule. Get over it, step over your prejudice, delay arriving to conclusions until after trying it yourself.

Don’t get me wrong – I was one of those people before and resisted joining twitter for many months, even years. I didn’t understand it either and didn’t want to voluntarily sign up for just another source of distraction. Here are my findings after joining twitter 2 months ago.

Real Reasons To Use Twitter

1. Most up-to-the-second updated search engine on things going on now

This is invaluable. Plane crash? Digg,com down? Searching twitter would yield instantaneous results because somebody somewhere is tweeting about it. And I’m not talking about biased and edited media – just real people.

Here is the perfect example of something that happened while I was writing this article. I was sleeping happily when some shaking woke me up. I couldn't figure out if I had just dreamt about an earthquake or one just actually happened. There was no more shaking, so I stumbled to my computer and did a quick twitter search for “earthquake”. Within seconds I knew it was indeed an earthquake, and within minutes what the magnitude was. Do you see value in this? I do.


2. Following important people in your field

Whatever your field is – web development, brain surgery, economics – anything, you will find colleagues whose ideas are interesting to you. You can also just follow plain geniuses, like Matt Cutts of Google or Om Malik of GigaOM. Believe me, a smart and interesting person makes sure to be interesting and smart on twitter as well, otherwise their audience drops off. Either way – you are in control. X and Y too boring for you? Stop following them and start following Z.

3. Keeping up with the latest news and updates

You can use twitter as pseudo-RSS by following, say, @cnnbrk (CNN Breaking News), new posts on FML @fxxxmylife, or jQuery updates at @jquery. As events occur, you get instant notifications in your twitter feed.

4. You can talk to companies directly, in a public, open way

For example, I’ve gotten personal replies from Comcast (@comcastcares) and Hulu (@hulu) within minutes of tweeting to them. Because the tweets are public rather than private the way emails would be, there is more pressure to respond to everyone and do it faster. Got a problem? Chances are twitter can help. I also noticed that everyone is inherently polite on twitter – there are no dumb flame wars.

5. In my experience, you will actually get a lot fewer “taking a dump” messages on twitter than on Facebook

… especially with Facebook’s new design. Let me tell you a little secret about your friends – they are not all geniuses and their comment rate seems to be inversely proportional to their brilliance. So before you say that twitter is useless, think about your Facebook account.

6. I’m not one to care much for following celebrities or famous people

… however I still think it’s fascinating that more and more celebrities and prominent people get on twitter, seemingly bridging the difference gap between themselves and regular folks. For example, Ashton Kutcher @aplusk constantly tweets and takes pictures with his phone (mostly of his wife Demi Moore, who is also an avid twitterer @mrskutcher). The fact that you can tweet @ Ashton and he’ll undoubtedly read your message and maybe even respond is kind of cool if you think about it. What kind of a fan club gives you such proximity to your favorite celebrity? What kind of fanclub is better than twitter for celebrities themselves?

Twitter is what you want it to be. Twitter is what you make of it.

140 Characters

Twitter’s 140 message limit, is it a curse or a blessing? My opinion is that it was an absolutely crucial element in site’s appeal and remarkable growth – an average person wants to skim through headlines and read in detail only what seems interesting. Too much information = information overload, even if it’s only a few more characters. I don’t think twitter would have picked up, had it not had this harsh character limit.

What do you think? Did you even have enough attention span to read the above 3 sentences?

Want To Make Twitter More Fun?

Check out my cleverly named Twitter.com Autocomplete, Auto URL Expansion, Auto URL Shortener, RT Button, Nested Replies, Inline Media Embed, Search Tabs, And More article.

Use Digsby, Tweetdeck, and other apps to take twitter with you to your desktop. See Top 10 Reasons Why Digsby ROCKS for more info on Digsby.

Check out this greasemonkey script that augments your google search results with Twitter ones:


Twitter Prediction?

Will my twitter predictions come true by the end of 2009? Read them here (hint: they already have, see below).


● ● ●
Artem Russakovskii is a San Francisco programmer and blogger. Follow Artem on Twitter (@ArtemR) or subscribe to the RSS feed.

In the meantime, if you found this article useful, feel free to buy me a cup of coffee below.

  • besttermlife

    Twitter is more than the "swine flu" in terms of updates. This really is a great help if one needs immediate news…

  • Eva Vesper

    I love Twitter because of it's up-to-date search ability. And to meet people from around the world who share some common interest with you. That's just cool.

    I think with all digital things, it will take time for the general population to use it. There are still about half of the US not connected full time to the internet. It will be interesting to see what happens as technologies increase and more of the "not connected" get online.

    • @Eva, absolutely agreed. I'm starting to develop a thick skin towards the constant twitter bashing by people who ignore any of the points above.

  • these are all interesting points. i agree with them to varying degrees, but i think you sell the 'mundane capture of life' thing short. i think it's a fascinating part of life and allows (even encourages) people to capture bits of their lives that would normally not be captured. it has parallels to so-called 'micro history' literature where historians try to write historical text-books based on the lives of normal people (eg some dude who sold chariots in ancient rome, vs the tradition of writing books only about julius caeser himself).

    another way of looking at it is that although i have a fancy/heavy slr with lots of lenses, i get equal (if very different) pleasure from the random pics i snap on my cellphone as i travel the world..

    it will, of course, mean a lot of crap gets captured, but it's still interesting.

    dave morgan (who, i ahve to say, i have more time for that the so-called geniuses you mention above ;)) just wrote an interesting piece about what i've thought the ultiamte commercial model for micro-blogging becomes — he's suggesting it can be a replacement to nielsen. i think it's an interesting idea.

    here's the link to the article: http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=107365

  • @Suranga
    good point – it's a really mundane and incredibly detailed way to create a journal of your life that years from now you probably won't (but may) look at and reflect back.

  • The thing that makes me hate Twitter is the fact that everybody isn't just using it. They're all talking about using it, blogging about how great Twitter is, there are news articles about celebrities having followers, etc.

    If it's so great and we should all be using it, why are people talking about it instead of using it?

  • cfls

    All your reasons were great but that only skims the top. Twitter builds a marketing network to youself, your business, or your profession. which is the be-have-do of life. LOOK IT UP IF YOU DON,T KNOW.

  • Dave

    Points 1. and 3. are the same point, and point 4. is merely a continuation of point 2. Secondly, Point 5. is just a contrasting view of Facebook–which has nothing to do with Twitter–and the stupidity of Facebook does not make Twitter any better than it is, or reflect Twitter at all. Your sixth point is just blatant personal opinion…

    Plus, I don't care about Ashton Kutcher or Demi Moore–celebrities ARE regular people, and it's things like Twitter that continue to convince people that they have to "connect" with these famous people. Please, give me a break. These people are NOT important, objectively, no matter how you put it. As for politicians–it's just advertisement and bias in regards to them, and therefore as far as "connecting" with those politicians themselves on Twitter, you might as well turn on some political television or go to their personal/campaign websites. For real.

    The bit about the 140 character limit is well said and useful, but really that is an internal issue for Twitter, and not a "to tweet or not to tweet" issue.

    Like you, when I initially used Twitter I was more than disappointed. Years later, I'm revisiting the possibility that I might could benefit from it in some way. However, I'm looking for objective, critical information and this was just not it. Finally, comments like, "did you even have enough attention span to read the above 3 sentences?" are a prime example of why myself and many people want to avoid Twitter and the people who purport it–that's what you're doing. Also, the "Twitter is what you want it to be. Twitter is what you make of it." applies to everything–everything–so, it really doesn't speak to whether to use Twitter or not. Again, no the most helpful things to point out.

  • Dave

    You could use a book, blog, your PC or any old posting facilitator for that. To me, this cannot be the reason to use Twitter, although it is a popular suggestion.

  • Dave

    It's like two or three points… I'm not bashing Twitter or ignoring these points, and yet I'm just wholly unconvinced. I would like to appreciate Twitter, I'm just not hearing it. I am not the only person who feels this way. Moreover, not everyone who is critical and doubtful of Twitter are bashing it. I am noticing that Twitter seems to make people feel like everyone is either For Twitter or Against Twitter–and this sort of right/left wing bull* is a total turn off.

  • Dave

    I see how it can be, but I don't see how it's an irreplaceable source of immediate news, or that it is good, hard, clean, unfiltered news. I really doubt that.