Twitter: for the birds?

This spring, my research collaborators and I interviewed more than 50 people about (among other things) their Twitter use. This was on the heels of spending 3 days in two high school classrooms last year interacting with teens about their social media use and attitudes (including Twitter). And now I find myself once again with 35 of my own students in a course focused on social media, in which I alternately introduce my students to, reunite them with, or simply play alongside them on Twitter. All of this is to say that I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about how people perceive and use Twitter. And tonight I’m thinking a lot about how to discuss Twitter — and why/how some people use it and others don’t — with my students.

My bracketing statement, before I go any further:

I am primarily a situational Twitter user, and I tweet mostly on topics related to my profession, although occasionally share something that amuses me or that is more personal. Mostly I tweet during events, such as conferences. I also tweet each summer when I teach my social media class. (Full disclosure, I also tweet with a class during the school year, but not from my personal account so I’m not really counting that. It’s a very deliberate and scheduled act then, not at all naturalistic or exploratory.) Passively, I use Twitter sporadically (sometimes I go a month without logging on). If I’m killing time, I’ll open the app and see if there’s anything interesting to read. If a ‘news event’ is unfolding, especially something local, I may go on Twitter to try to figure out what is going on. Hurricane Hermine (hiding in my basement while 2 huge trees fell on my house) and the shooting at the FSU Library (I heard the many sirens) would be two such instances. So, who do I follow? A collection of local places, thought leaders, professional organizations, colleagues, media outlets/magazines, and some random accounts that amuse me. Put that all together, and that’s my Twitter experience. Oh, and let’s not forget that I’m American. Although I follow people in various countries, I know my perspective is an American one and the people with whom I’ve discussed Twitter recently are either American or living/studying in the United States.

So, what have I learned? Continue reading