July 2010. That was the month I joined Twitter.
That would make it a little over six months since I've joined this social networking phenomenon that has rocked the world. Brought to the world in 2006, few would have predicted how popular this simple social networking platform has become. Today, a conservative estimate of the number of Twitter members is about 200 million.
For the uninitiated, Twitter is a social networking tool that allows users to send text-based posts of up to 140 characters, dubbed "tweets", which are then displayed on a user's profile page and are publicly visible by anyone. Users may subscribe to other users' tweets by a process known as "following" the person, and likewise, they may choose to follow you.
Users may also send direct messages or DMs to each other for free, provided that both parties are following each other, making Twitter sometimes being dubbed as an "FOC SMS platform" that's free of international roaming charges.
As I look back on my journey with Twitter, I realize that it began quite reluctantly. In fact, that was also true of my entry into the entire blogging and social networking scene. I joined Facebook out of curiosity more than anything else and I only started blogging late, only in July 2009, and my reasons for doing so are on public record.
On a macro view of things, I would consider myself still a newbie on Twitter. But in the six months or so of joining Twitter, I've learnt a great deal about what this microblogging site can do. Equally interesting are some things you learn on Twitter not to do.
For instance, Twitter is a great source for some collectively useful information. Hash tags such as #KLTraffic is a great early warning system to guide me through the perilous traffic jams and blocks that plague Kuala Lumpur every day. By using the collective reports of the thousands of Twitter users in and about KL everyday, I can easily sift through which roads to avoid and plan my journey more effectively.
This collective sharing is also useful as your friends and followers with similar interests can tag you and alert you to issues and things you may be interested in following or reading. As there are just so many pieces of information out there on the Net, having a recommendation list is indeed useful.
Twitter is also useful as a social tool, to keep friends and loved ones informed on what's going on in each other's lives. It's a great way to be able to find out who's meeting whom, and at which location these meetings are going to take place.
Commonly known as "Tweetups" in Twitter parlance, these events are also a great way for me to meet people I may have been in correspondence with on Twitter but whom I don't know in person. It's also a great way to meet socialize with new acquaintances, both for professional and personal reasons.
Of course, there are also downsides to Twitter. First off, it can be a distraction from work and even personal time, as much time is spent looking at the Twitter feeds and this can draw the ire of your friends and loved ones. Just ask my wife about this!
Also, Twitter, like any other technological tool can be used for bad intentions, like spreading rumors, untruth and even downright used to curse and slander someone else.
And even sometimes, so-called innocent or not well thought through comments can trigger major incidents as has been known to happen to politicians before.
Even journalists, who are supposedly trained to be careful about their writings, have not been spared of these faux pas, and have paid a heavy price for tweeting carelessly.
So what are some of my observations in the six months I've been on Twitter?
For starters, Twitter has been so hugely popular because it simply feeds on a basic human need--that is to communicate with one another. In that sense, tweets are just an extension of our personalities as well as our thoughts and demeanor.
What Twitter brings to the table are two elements--the ability to broadcast our thoughts and the immediacy with which it happens.
Next, Twitter may or may not be here to stay but the next big thing in social networking is still going to be based on this basic need to communicate and share our lives with the world. This is the simply the nature of the Internet-enabled world that we live in today. Just take a look at services like Quora or Instagr.am and you'll know what I mean.
Currently, there are no signs of such trends abating, only signs of them evolving. This implies that all of us, whether consumers or companies need to embrace technological creations such as Twitter rather than resist it. In doing so, it does mean that like with any other technological tool, it has to be used responsibly and with some semblance of social etiquette and practice.
Lastly, I've always argued that technological inventions should be used for the good of mankind rather than for ill and should be used to help and not to hurt, and by embracing such inventions, we want that mankind will benefit from it.
So, will I still be on Twitter in another six months? Well, I don't know the answer to that. But one thing's for sure, new services and applications will continue to come online and will capture the hearts and minds of consumers everywhere.
So what do you use Twitter for? Do follow me and exchange your thoughts with me.