Did that title catch your attention? Probably not.
Who CARES what I had for breakfast, right? Who the hell wants to know if I had reheated omelette at my desk with a glass of luke-warm orange ? No one.
But what if I’d had eggs Benedict in the Four Seasons with Oprah? Would you care then? You probably would. And if Oprah and I had taken a selfie, would you want to see it?
I’m asking because I was listening to The Ray Foley Show the other morning (as I do every morning, howayiz lads!) and JP was going on about how he didn’t ‘get’ Twitter and wasn’t into it at all. “Why would anyone want to know what I had for my breakfast?!” he quipped. Now I love you, JP Gilbourne. I really do. But if you think that’s what Twitter is about, you couldn’t be more wrong. And you also kinda sound like my Dad (someone else who is mystified by the whole idea, and is too stubborn to give it a go. Hi Dad!).
JP is missing a trick when it comes to Twitter. Rick O’Shea on 2fm fills his show with Twitter based banter and topics, making the craic expand exponentially, engaging people who wouldn’t otherwise be listening. Similarly, Vincent Browne’s TV3 show – the viewers watch and tweet simultaneously and it brings a whole new dimension to the show as a result.
98fm’s neighbours, Spin 1038, are totally on board the Twitter machine, as they’d have to be to identify with and connect with their slightly younger listenership. Ryan and Tracy take over the account in the mornings, and get hundreds of tweets of praise for their choice of Naughty Threesome songs. Brian and Dara on the Zoo Crew have their own account too.
There is much to be gained from Twitter. I frequently find myself inspired, reading articles I’ve been sent links to, finding out important news before it’s reached my non-Twitter colleagues. The tragic story of the Chada brothers’ deaths was played out (albeit in a very sensitive manner) on Twitter so effectively that I was as up-to-date on the story as some of the biggest news outlets in the country as they got their information.
Apart from being a source of great inspiration, it is the best place to kill ten minutes. Sitting in a waiting room? Nothing going on? Check Twitter. There’ll always be new content. There’ll always be another joke to give you a giggle. There’ll always be another celebrity having a very public meltdown. There’ll always be news about your favourite band releasing their new song. You can’t get bored on Twitter if you’re following interesting accounts.
I gave an informal talk to a bunch of very lovely bloggers the other day, some new to the blog world, some who’ve been around it as long as I have if not longer. I got terribly animated when the topic of Twitter came up. I reasoned that it really is like a modern-day business card – your Twitter profile and bio gives so much information about you, where you work, who you know, what your opinions are etc. It’s a place to network (having casual interactions with people you otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to talk to – I nearly lost my mind the day Louise Court, the editor of Cosmopolitan UK replied to a tweet of mine), a place to communicate opinions and learn other opinions, a place to hear someone else’s take on a subject. You cannot help but be enriched by it and by the intelligence and unique insight of the other users.
Twitter, I sometimes find, it like a personalised Google search. I asked the other day “Where does the best Lemon Meringue Pie in Dublin?” Simple request. And granted, if I had googled, I would have found several establishments willing to provide me with fuel for my emotional eating spree. But I got a personalised response from two people, who took into account where in Dublin I work and live, and provided a personal seal of approval too, giving me confidence in my cake buying.
If you’ve got a complaint (or better yet, some praise) you want to make public, Twitter is the best place to do that. If you tag an establishment, likelyhood is you’ll get a response, particularly if they feel your complaint is getting attention and is warranted. I tweeted recently about rude treatment from a bouncer in a well known Dublin venue, and before the end of the day the manager had phoned me to apologise and invited me to return as his guest. Obviously complaining for the sake of it and being abusive and unnecessarily mean about places/people won’t get you far, but genuine grievances will.
Just the same, companies have Twitter accounts as helplines. Particularly handy for banks and phone companies who have notoriously long waiting times on their phone helplines, one tweet about something minor and you could have a resolution in minutes. Again, I tweeted recently that I wasn’t happy with an upgrade I was offered on my phone. Three other phone companies send me tweets offering to call me to chat about my phone needs within about an hour of sending the tweet. Customer service accounts on Twitter are only becoming more popular.
Similarly, if you’re looking for jobs, tickets to a gig or need to hire a photographer at a moment’s notice, Twitter is the place to put your call out. Selling tickets is easy on Twitter. Facebook tells your couple of hundred ‘friends’ you’re selling them. Twitter and its potential for retweets means so many more people will find out and you’ve a better chance of getting rid.
Of course, there are the negative sides of Twitter too. A friend of mine was trawling through hundreds of extremist tweets the other day, mostly hardcore feminists who were so anti men it was frightening. Likewise the crazed fans of One Direction who threatened to harm themselves physically because they weren’t happy with the GQ magazine covers the boys did. Twitter does give a platform to the complete nutcases who otherwise would’ve remained unheard, and it can often make them even more vocal. They rile each other up.
Likewise, Twitter is a breeding ground for trolls. Freelance journalist and feminist campaigner, Caroline Criado-Perez, was under attack recently for a comment she made about Jane Austen’s face going on money. She was inundated with rape threats for about 36 hours, non stop, violent, disturbing threats from mostly anonymous accounts. It showed the most horrible side to Twitter – the trolls who will attack anyone and everyone from behind the apparent ‘safety’ of their IP address. But the incident also showed what I would consider to be one of the most powerful things about Twitter – the community effect. Thousands of people corralled around Criado-Perez in support. Fellow feminists (male and female), journalists, other victims of online abuse and just general outraged members of the Twitter public retweeted and expressed their disgust until people started taking notice. It’s like a protest with 20,000 attendees, all gathering in a piece of cloud space somewhere in the Twittersphere.