Whenever I talk to people about twitter, I am often told they aren't on it because they aren't sure exactly why they should be. The thing is, you definitely should be. It's pretty amazing.
I admit, twitter is a great tool for businesses. It gives you the ability to spread the word about deals, updates and general news. You can share videos, photos and connect to your customers.
But that's not why I love it, it's a lot more than that. It's a great tool for individuals to be exposed to aspects of the world around them that they normally wouldn't have an opportunity to see or read about.
My favorite aspect of twitter is that it connects us to total strangers with the same interests, thoughts and loves. On facebook, we are connected with people we know (or meet in bars, at church, at work etc.) On twitter, we can connect to people we admire or want to learn from or we find fascinating, anywhere in the world.
I follow all kinds of individuals on my personal twitter that are extremely interesting. Most of these are people I wouldn't normally get to peek into their daily life and/or jobs without the magic that is the twitter.
I follow astronauts like @Astro_Clay, @Astro_Wheels and @Astro_Mike. Through them I get to experience the view of earth or beautiful weather formations or the majesty of stars from space. They even have games where you can guess what part of the earth is in the photograph they tweet. It's quite popular.
I follow authors like Neil Gaiman @neilhimself, Jim Butcher @longshotauthor, Stephen King @StephenKing, Paulo Coelho @paulocoelho, John Green @realjohngreen and Margaret Atwood @MargaretAtwood, among others. It's fun to see the kind of lives some of my favorite authors live, whether they like to do yoga in the forest, cook vegan concoctions or surprise their readers randomly in cities they happen to be in.
I follow friends I know in real life and photographers whose work I admire. I've made a lot of new friends through communities that exist only because of twitter's hashtags.
Hashtags like #fridayreads and #litchat connect me with readers all over the country, allowing me to chat with anyone about upcoming books and the love of literature.
The #Runchat hashtag connects runners to each other to share tips on weight loss, better shoes or their favorite marathon locations. I've found out about a lot of the 10Ks or 5Ks I want to run because of this hashtag and learned about gear or gotten advice on challenging aspects of running, whether it's stretching or injuries or products.
The #WJChat hashtag connects web journalists who want to discuss current issues like circulation, ethics, technique and current events. Journalists from newsrooms tune in each week to give each other advice, express their views and connect with other newspapers.
Through hashtags or the search tool, twitter users can find anyone with similar interests and build a community to connect with that doesn't exist anywhere else. It is a way to have conversations with any group of people you wish, anywhere in the world. Whether you want to talk to a chef in China or a police officer in Wyoming or your favorite banjo player/comedian (@SteveMartinToGo), it allows you to do so.
Twitter is a powerful tool. It has shown might through breaking news (intentionally or accidentally) before any other source. It has also shown weakness through the fake news, photos and facts that float around and get retweeted out of control. There are no editors in twitter or fact checkers, so make sure you follow trusted sources.
Despite that, I love twitter because at it's core, it exists to connect to people to each other. It's a way to build your own community (whether you live in a town of 300 or a city of 2 million) that will support you, talk to you and be interested in what you have to say.
Whether it's your love of cat videos or your interest in astrophysics, it's all there. 140 characters at a time.
(Follow me at @KatDuncan_VA!)
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