This last week has been a sobering calamity on one hand, and yet a triumph for social media on the other. However, by social media, I refer specifically to Twitter and not Facebook. I don’t know about you guys, but the amount of useless, insipid or just plain wrong information being circulated on Facebook is annoying, if not outright dangerous in this time of crisis. There seems to be a lot less of the humorous memes and outdated photos on Twitter and more of the actual hard news as it happens. Twitter’s chronological timeline prioritizes relevant and recent information better than Facebook’s popularity-based timeline.
Which is why I texted my parents that I would prefer it if they got their news and information from Twitter instead of (or at least in addition to) Facebook; and especially from institutions and agencies over friends and acquaintances. They were agreeable, though of course baffled. “How do I do that?” Well, Mom and Dad, this article is for you. And to the rest of you, feel free to forward it to all your parents or otherwise Twitter-challenged friends and relatives.
Mom, on the iPad you’ll need to download the free Twitter app from the App Store. Same with you on your iPhone, Dad. Alternatively, you can also use Twitter.com on your laptop’s web browser – in fact this is probably a good first step because it’s easier to create an account there. Once you’ve got your name and password registered in the system, then you can enter the same credentials in your iPad / iPhone app. Everything will sync once you’re signed in.
Now to populate your timeline with friends, family, and useful information sources.
Every username starts with a “@” symbol. For instance, my username is @vicicasas (and I would be highly offended if your son is not the first Twitter user you add to your “Following” list). See the end of the article for my list of recommended Twitter accounts that you should be following.
Think of Twitter as a continuous stream of status updates, just like Facebook. But the main difference: On Twitter, every message is 140 characters or less. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to use textspeak (Mom? Dad? Please, no!) but that you should pare your messages down to the essence.
How to use Twitter
Once you’ve started following people and select organizations on your Twitter account, you can choose to leave it at that and treat it as a one way news feed. Refresh it often and check it anytime.
If you do want to send a message or a “Tweet,” all you have to do is type your message (again, max of 140 characters) on the message box and post it. Your message will now be visible to everyone who is following you. Which means that if you don’t have any followers, then you’re essentially talking to yourself.
This is why you’ll want to invite people to follow you. Invite me and Kris, for starters!
It is also the norm (though not required) for people in Twitter to follow people who follow them. It’s like a quid pro quo bit of courtesy. But don’t be compelled to do so; it’s not required. Feel free to follow only people whom you really know. But if some person like @blbxt251231 decides to follow you, by all means do not follow them back as it might be spam that’s waiting to happen.
Occasionally you’ll see mystical acronyms like “RT” – this means that someone has chosen to repost (or “ReTweet”) someone else’s tweet and share it to others. Feel free to click on the usernames of people that have been RT’ed and add them to your list if you find them relevant or interesting.
You can also use Twitter as a direct communication tool. This is called direct messaging or DM, and they’re absolutely private. Nobody else sees them but the recipient. If you want to direct message me, all you have to do is send a message with this format:
D @vicicasas Hey Vic get me some coffee if you’re passing by the grocery.
That’s a single D there. Don’t forget it unless you really want the whole world to know that you want me to buy you coffee. By the way, DM only works if the two users involved already follow each other.
You’ll also see words or phrases with a # in front of them – this is called a hashtag and you can think of it as sort of like an email subject line, though it usually pops up at the end of the tweet. Hashtags are useful because they help make sense of the massive amount of information out there. Do a search for tweets with the #floodsPH hashtag, for instance, and you’ll see a whole list of updates from people using that hashtag, even people you aren’t currently following.
For starters, I suggest you add the following accounts to your Twitter feed right now:
That’s about it for now. If you have any questions, Mom and Dad, just leave them in the comments. OK, fine, call me
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