Give A Dog A Phone: Reflecting on Microblogging

Using Twitter for journalistic purposes has opened my eyes to the power of social media. Before undertaking the News and Journalism unit this year, I had only the smallest insight into how useful Twitter can be with the speed of information, level of interaction and expression of opinion. I had used my personal Twitter account before to follow accounts that took my interest, and particularly useful ones such as BBC Sport, which gave me news and live tweeting of football matches straight to my phone. This was far easier than having to check a website or browse through the television channels, and despite this being one of the main reasons Twitter is so powerful I had somewhat overlooked it as a work tool.

As I began to delve deeper into the uses of Twitter, I began to see in black and white all the individual uses of the social network. Andreas Kaplan outlines the uses of Twitter in his article ‘The Early Bird Catches the News’, and it was easy to see how they related to my own account.

The majority of my timeline was at first just my friends and celebrities providing an ambient awareness; small details of their lives that painted a picture of the world around me.

I then began to significantly notice the use of marketing research, customer services and advertising on Twitter; based on my follows advert tweets began to be pushed into my timeline, accounts followed me based on my interests or location, and prompted me to feedback to them via Twitter.

Whilst using Twitter for my News and Journalism unit, one of the most significant aspects that struck me was the availability of information and, mainly, other people. Through a couple of hashtags and searches, I was able to talk to anyone, anywhere in the world. People I thought were not contactable in the real world were now just a click away and I could express my own opinion to them, form a debate, and interact with others talking about the same subject.

I was prompted to post questions to my feed regarding journalism, and then journalists began interacting with me. Twitter became a huge pool of information with room to question, interact and comment on news unlike through other media.

One of my own posts on this blog, was in fact inspired by information I found on Twitter; information I doubt I could have found with such ease anywhere else.

Twitter’s sense of involvement is something I had not experienced before; I began to feel involved in the world of journalism, accepted into this global community within a social network.

My retweets and questions actually contributed to the flow of news, as I helped topics to reach a larger audience and expressed my own opinions. If these tweets contained links then myself or anyone I had retweeted to had the option to pull further information from the linked website. Likewise, it would only have taken one giant journalism organisation to retweet something I had posted, and my opinions could be pushed into thousands of people’s timelines.

The mass audience, the speed of information, and freedom of expression all make Twitter an unbelievable platform for microblogging. It was easy to juggle my personal and professional life by organising my follows into lists, and my own timeline became an insight into my work as well and my own interests.

The experience on Twitter wasn’t without its flaws however, as the 140 character limit became an issue. Whilst this wasn’t too important with regards to news updates, as these often contained links to detailed articles, expressing my own opinion would sometimes have to be spread over a series of tweets or I’d be forced to sacrifice my grammar to fit in the word count. There were also issues with reliability of news, as the unverified accounts and hearsay floating around Twitter could very easily provide misleading information.

Overall, I gained many skills in communication and technology from this experience, and found a very valuable source of news for pretty much anything I can dream of, right in my phone.

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