You’ve tried to explain Twitter to your dad and he’s says it sounds like twaddle. At first glance it does seem Twitter is filled with never ending banal postings about mundane non-events from boring people.

Yup, there’s plenty of people posting everyday stuff. From their perspective little Timmy’s tummy ache should have made the evening news but this is the next best thing. Unless you personally know Timmy you probably don’t care. And unless he’s the only heir apparent to the kingdom most of his fellow citizens won’t care either. But those who know and love him will be sending their best wishes for his speedy recovery.

One banality is the surprisingly high number of posters who think Twitter is an opportunity to post lewd pictures or comments. They soon succumb to the brilliant ‘account suspended for strange activity’ function. (Possibly the function most appreciated by those of us who’d rather not see all your stuff. And who would prefer that no little boys or girls see it either!)

However if you have any kind of interests, hobbies or business at all, Twitter is great! Twitter gives you a huge amount of control. First there’s your personal profile. You choose what you want others to know about you, decide whether to include a link to your web site and pick what kind of picture you’re going to post. Some prefer to post a pet photo and others put their business logo. The worst decision is to leave the default bird icon as your avatar. People assume that either you have no computer skills or perhaps have something to hide.

You don’t have to be on Twitter all the time. Personally I avoid following individuals who are posting more often than a few times an hour…it prevents me from seeing tweets from those who post less often. There are probably at least a dozen ‘tweeple’ who were interesting enough for me to follow…except for that. One person who looked interesting at first quickly became enamored with little tummy aches. That’s when you discover the ‘unfollow’ option.

One of the great things about Twitter is that you can use it to filter much of the Internet. Since you’re following people who share similar interests you’ll find some of their links contain the information and contacts you’re after. Like baking? Simply go to the ‘find friends’ page and enter baking or cooking in the search blank to find out who else wears an apron. Another way to find topics of interest is to click on the hash tag(s) in a posting. (#baking #cooking #pasta, #salmonfishing, etc. Hash tags only highlight one word so two words must have the space eliminated.) You don’t have to feel like the only Trekkie in town. On Twitter you can look for other Star Trek fans or widen your scope to include anyone who likes to create science fiction in general. (Yes, think @ScifiAliens and thank you.)

Don’t forget to look through the lists of people following those you follow. This is often an easy way to find even more tweeple you have things in common with. Over time people who share your interests will begin to find you as well. Some will be worth checking out and following. Others will make you wonder. If you find them offensive you can unfollow or even block them which means they won’t be able to see your tweets. You won’t be able to see theirs, which is half the point. For myself I try to only block people who really do cross my personal moral boundaries. Lewd behavior is automatically unacceptable. Merely annoying is usually not a big deal.

It seems most people only post links to things they find interesting, which may include their own web sites and blogs. This is fine as long as there’s something worth reading or seeing. Over time you may discover you prefer the kind of links certain people post. This is another way of cutting down the data overload since you’ll quickly learn which links to ignore.

You can use your own updates to ask questions when you need information or feedback. Most common is the practice of putting ‘Thoughts?’ or ‘Anybody?’ or a request to ‘DM (direct message) me.’ You can also expand the number of possible responses with the use of a hash tag in front of your most relevant word or words.

Oh, and by the way, tell your dad to never twitter the twaddles on a dicky bird. Just something I once heard on the radio. Relevant? No. Misquoted? Definitely! Funny? Depends on your point of view, doesn’t it? But that’s a lot of info for less than 140 characters. That’s the whole point. Twitter is succinct, sometimes in the extreme. It can help you zero in on your topic and allow you to find people you’d otherwise miss. Like most technology it’s as useful as you make it.

About Scifialiens

Author of the Martian Symbiont series: three titles, so far; Been Blued, Martian Blues, Martian Divides. Currently writing screenplays. 'Mating With Humans' can be found on her account. Enjoyed writing from the start. Also a Star Trek and Doctor Who fan. Canadian so far. Paternal grandparents were American. Feels more at home in the States. Loves dogs and most other animals. Loves cats from afar--allergies. Plays flute and saxophone; 'messes with' keyboard and electric guitar. Single so far. Not really looking at the moment. Age: irrelevant. Not to be confused with the fictional comic book character, Phyllis Twombly, who lived for 600 years in the American Midwest.

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