Twitter-twatter

To be honest, I was anti-Twitter until two months ago. With the popularity of Facebook, I thought for sure Twitter would be a short-lived fad, similar to the Furbies from my childhood.

My roommate, Erin Kelly, made a Twitter account last spring. She often “tweeted” updates about her daily activities, or posted links to stories she had written for Her Campus Northeastern and Social Jersey. At first, I thought having one more website to check and update – on top of news sites, Facebook, Gmail and my Northeastern University student account – would exhaust me. I didn’t want to spend all day, every day updating statuses on Facebook and Twitter. Am I really that interesting to people?

The more I thought about it, though, I knew I was losing out because I can use Twitter as an open platform to promote my writing. Simply making an account wouldn’t require me to tell the Twitter world about my gloomy feelings because of the rain outside or the kind of sandwich I ate for lunch. Thankfully, I realized Twitter is a useful social media tool for networking and enhancing my journalism interests and experiences. We all know the story of how social media helped unite Egyptian protesters in their uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak. And, more recently, how Charlie Sheen gained millions of Twitter followers in 25 hours. Maybe a future employer will find links to my writing samples and blog posts through Twitter, and hire me – maybe I’m being too hopeful.

But, for now, I can use Twitter to find tips, sources and experts for class assignments and stories I write for The Huntington News and The Boston Globe. This week I went on a hunt for tweeters who are focused on Egypt. First I searched for local people and organizations in Boston tweeting about Egypt. Without much luck searching locally, I expanded my quest to national and international organizations and people. I typed “Boston Egypt,” “Boston Egypt organizations,” “Egypt” and “Egypt revolution” into Google, Listorious, Boston Media Tweeters on Media Nation and my own Twitter account (@mrich1201, follow me!) to find people and organizations.

I began following @jilliancyork, @acarvin, @habibh, @tarekshalaby, @Ghonim, @Ted1733, @ElBaradei, @weddady, @Global Voices, @USEmbassyCairo and @Al-Jazeera English. To put it simply, I am learning more from Twitter than I ever thought possible. I am still skeptical of all the information I read from people I follow” but I think the website is an extremely useful tool for news gathering. For example, I don’t need to know (nor care, really) that Andy Carvin’s (@acarvin) soda exploded all over him on the airplane. But Carvin’s tweet about the Dalai Lama planning to quit as Tibet political leader is useful news.

Upon a recommendation from Professor Kennedy, I began following Jillian York (@jilliancyork), who works at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and writes for Global Voices Online. She closely follows the Middle East. Her Twitter profile says, “I talk about digital activism, free expression, media & the Arab World,” which tells me she will be valuable to my research for both my beat and final project. Hopefully I will have the chance to interview her.

By looking at Habib Haddad’s Twitter (@habibh), I realized the simplicity of “retweeting” can add a plethora of information to a page. I felt overwhelmed, though, while reading through his retweets. There’s not enough time to read everything! When I read his page, I mostly clicked on his original tweets, not the retweets. I enjoy reading information from the source.

Tarek Shalaby (@tarekshalaby) and Wael Ghonim (@Ghonim), who live in Cairo, have many friends in Egypt. By following their pages, hopefully I can find other sources to talk to for a possible final project. Though Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency, often tweets (@ElBaradei) in Arabic, his English posts give an original viewpoint: Today he tweeted, “Lets all get down to work and start rebuilding our country. We want the world to know that Egypt is open for business.” Firsthand accounts are always interesting to read.

When I looked at Boston resident Ted Graham’s page, (@Ted1733) I discovered that Oprah Winfrey will host a live show from Cairo’s Tahrir Square on “a Friday in March.” Though I am not a Winfrey fan, I learned something from Twitter that I had not known before. Similarly, from a retweet on @weddady’s page, I learned Saudi Arabia’s Day of Rage is tomorrow.

I feel more comfortable relying on news from credible organizations’ pages, such as Global Voices, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and Al-Jazeera English. For instance, Global Voices Online is a beneficial resource because bloggers report on other blogs and citizen media from around the world. Since the information comes from known organizations and not a random Twitter account, it makes the news seem more trustworthy.

Don’t get me wrong: The individuals I started following this week will most likely prove valuable to my research. Until last Monday, I was only connected with friends and co-workers on Twitter. In the next few weeks I hope to connect to more groups of like-minded people and organizations. I realize now that Twitter is what you make it, and you earn the effort you put into its resources.

First inserted photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Second inserted photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Third inserted photo from Wikimedia Commons.

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