I can't tell you when exactly it was, but I can tell you who. Oh, maybe about when -- more than a year ago. Our Digital Channel/News Raw anchor Mekahlo Medina peered over the top of his computer monitor at me and said, "Do you Twitter?"
"Do I what?" I said.
"Twitter," he answered, and continued as way of explanation, "It's where you and your friends can just say what you're doing, at any given time."
"Like what? And when?"
Mekahlo sighs patiently and says, "Anything. Anytime. You know, just about ... whatever."
I frowned, and I'm pretty sure I rolled my eyes as I said, "Aaaah, no. That sounds, well, totally stupid. I can see what you're doing from right over here."
He chuckled good-naturedly and went back to his hipster web-world over there, and I delved back into my very serious newsgathering (online shopping) on MY computer.
Now, a year (I think?) later, the stupid Twitter thing is everywhere and I'm faced with the same thing that happened to me with Facebook. Both my sisters used Facebook to communicate with their college-aged kids, and then eachother. I was odd-aunt-out. "Why do Facebook when we can just email eachother?" They frowned, and I'm pretty sure they rolled their eyes.
I had to try Facebook to understand it, so I'm trying Twitter now (but I'm really just kind of lurking) to see what the buzz is all about.
I'm thinking if you're on Facebook, the status updates kind of ARE Twitter, so wouldn't that be redundant? In fact it seems to me that Facebook's latest makeover, coming to your screen in the next week, makes the whole thing more Twitter-like. This story in Information Week titled "Facebook Makeover Mimics Twitter," says,
"While timely information has always been valued at Facebook, Google, and other online services, it has only been recently, with the surging popularity of Twitter, that search engines and social networks have recognized that real-time communication services pose a threat. "
And Twitter IS apparently posing a threat, with everyone from the Dalai Lama to Britney Spears to Barack Obama "tweeting." Politicians are using it in droves, saying they can connect directly with their constituents. Some excerpts from The Chicago Tribune's story from Capitol Hill reporter James Oliphant:
"Jindal is weird," tweeted Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., while watching the Louisiana governor speak on national television last week in response to President Obama’s address to Congress. "I can’t believe Jindal. Such a sad contrast with President. Doesn’t even look or sound good, to say nothing about content." Blumenauer was twittering throughout Obama’s speech, as were several other lawmakers, including Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who later, she told her followers, was upbraided by her mother for it.
"OK, OK. Mom’s upset that I was rude at Pres speech re: tweets," McCaskill later tweeted. "For the record I tweeted bfor, at very beginning, & after speech. I wanted to listen."
You get a bit of a personal taste of someone's day, in real time, and I guess I can describe it kind of the way I would describe the obsession people have with car chases. Watching something live, no matter how mundane and repetitive, is compelling. For some reason.
I am "following," for example, Dr. Drew Pinsky, who was quoting one liners from deToqueville, Lincoln, and Warren Buffet. Celebrity Blogger Perez Hilton tweets: "Trying to avoid Missy backstage, ya know - cuz I've called her a lesbian a billion times. A BIT awkard! ha," and Meet the Press moderator David Gregory: "I'm doing an intvu with Jamie Gangel abt Twitter now. Could more people be writing or talking abt this?"
I look at it as kind of just a page-full of status updates on Facebook, without the rest of Facebook. And, you can "follow" someone without them having to "follow" you (unlike Facebook friends, which is a two-way street always.) I can follow 100 people who interest me, and have news updates (everyone posted the unemployment rate being at a 25-year high around 5 this morning) and updates on what my photographers are having for breakfast, all in the same place.
My facebook friends weighed in on this last night when I signed up for Twitter.
Michael says, "Twitter is like a text message but on the internet."
Trevor added, "I fiddled around with Twitter earlier. I don't see the appeal. As you said Jen, FB is much more interactive and 2 way. Twitter is more like "hey this is what I'm doing" and that's the end of it."
And David said, "Facebook is much better than Twitter. Twitter is sort of a fad."
And Jon said, "Twitter is as simple and dumb as you'd think it is."
Well, that's what I said -- a YEAR (a year?) ago. If this Twitter momentum keeps up, I may be eating my words -- er, tweets.