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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    What are you doing?

    Sheldon Smith / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Liam Foley/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

Kyle Oman, a film and production sophomore, twits on campus.
    Sheldon Smith / Arizona Daily Wildcat Liam Foley/ Arizona Daily Wildcat Kyle Oman, a film and production sophomore, twits on campus.

    It’s a seemingly simple question. One might answer with a “”Grabbing some coffee!”” or “”Headed to class!”” Our days are filled with these “”doings,”” from mundane errands to more exciting exploits.

    Whatever it is you are doing, people want to know.

    Narrow it down to 140 characters; post it online, and you’ve got the basic concept behind Twitter.

    It’s a web phenomenon that’s spreading like wildfire, and if you use Facebook, it’s likely you’ve heard of it, even if you don’t know exactly what it is.

    Essentially, Tweeters log onto the site and tap out what they are doing in 140 characters or less. Every member has so-called “”followers,”” who keep tabs on the updates from their fellow Tweeters.

    “”It’s a really wonderful networking tool, so that’s one of the ways I use it. Another way is to just keep track of my friends,”” said Alla Goldman, a senior majoring in political science and Russian. “”Like, ‘Oh, my friend is grabbing lunch at the Union right now. I guess I could Twitter at them and see if they would like some company,'”” said Goldman, who first learned about Twitter while reading a tech blog. Goldman uses the site to keep in contact with friends traveling abroad, as well as her fellow Resident Assitants across the country.

    This may sound awfully familiar to another certain social networking site – Goldman begs to differ.

    “”I think that the steps Facebook has taken with the new layout is actually very similar, if not identical to, the way Twitter works. If nothing else, it’s really helping bring the two together,”” she said of Facebook’s recent (and oft-protested) new format.

    “”However, I strongly believe that Twitter is very different as it’s own entity. It’s a different way of communicating. It’s as though someone were constantly checking their Facebook newsfeed. People disseminate information through their newsfeed – not only about what they are doing, but what projects they are working on or links to really fun things they’ve found.””

    Most new users are skeptical about the concept of “”following,”” which tends to seem like some kind of acceptable cyber-stalking. Goldman, however, assures that this is not the case.

    “”Most of the people who are following your Twitter feed aren’t just following you. It’s kind of like if you are somebody’s only Facebook friend. Wouldn’t that be kind of awkward? Because every time you put stuff up, you’re the only person that shows up on the newsfeed. I don’t have a problem with being followed, even by people I don’t know. I actually think it’s really cool to see the things that my tweets elicit.””

    While Goldman likens Twitter to more of a social device, UA alum Meg Askey sees it as a useful tool in the professional arena. As the marketing specialist for the Media Arts department, Askey posts blurbs about the current goings-on in the Media Arts department.

    “”I will use Twitter for work in the way that operates in concert with other social networks. A lot of our events are general community events beyond campus. We have alums from all over that come and visit. If I’m looking for those people and those people are looking for me on there, they’ll be able to find me and hear what I have to say, without me feeling like I’m putting up flyers somewhere where there are ten million other flyers. It feels like I’m being much more focused and using our resources for the better,”” Askey said.

    “”I feel like it allows me, as a marketer, to speak to people about media arts who want to hear about media arts. It’s a very focused way to market yourself.””

    Askey isn’t the only Tweeter at the UA who has discovered the site’s surprising marketing powers.

    Goldman notes that a friend in the creative writing major snagged a job by following another Tweeter.

    “”He was following someone who was a web entrepreneur, and he direct messaged him on Twitter saying something to effect of ‘Oh, that new song is coming out, you should have a PR thing about it, I think it would draw some good advertising.'”” The man responded to her friend and later offered him a job as a PR writer.

    “”Now he has a job for when he graduates in May, and it happened 100 percent because of Twitter.””

    Despite its social advantages, the sudden popularity of Twitter is raising some eyebrows. Not immune to the site’s novelty, celebrities and politicians alike have joined Twitter as a means to reach out to the public, sans PR agents and journalist interviews.

    “”With the advent of all these new ways in which celebrities or newsmakers can get to the audience and avoid the journalists, it creates a lot of challenges,”” said Steve Rains, an assistant professor in the communications department. “”It’s a way for these folks to sort of circumvent the mainstream channels to get info to their fans. And I don’t necessarily think that it benefits us as a society, since journalists play an important role as watchdogs.””

    Twitter has already caused a stir as politicians were caught on their Twitterberry (the Blackberry application of Twitter) during Barack Obama’s recent address, or as a juror in an Arkansas civil trial was found Tweeting during trial proceedings.

    Twitter even seeped into the sports world when Miluwaukee Bucks forward Charlie Villanueva was caught Tweeting, “”I gotta step up,”” during a locker room pep-talk.

    “”These athletes don’t even need the media anymore,”” said Rains. “”They can use these other social net sites like Twitter to go around them and communicate their own messages.””

    Celebrities like John Mayer, Tina Fey, Jay-Z and Shaq reportedly have Twitters, but it’s difficult to say whether it’s really the stars themselves or their PR agents behind the Tweets (although, it’s a pretty safe bet that “”I am kazaam yur wish is my command”” came from Shaq himself). However, the prospect of being duped by celebrities and their PR agents doesn’t bother Goldman.

    “”I wouldn’t necessarily think it would take away from the information, because essentially, Twitter is asking the question “”What are you doing?”” and if the PR agent who is releasing info about what a certain celeb is doing, it’s still kind of cool. I mean, it’s not as cool as Shaq actually sitting there with his Blackberry about to take off at Sky Harbor Airport that he’s off to city X, Y, and Z today.””

    It’s posts like these – simple, everyday activities like travelling and dining – that make up the majority of the “”Tweets”” online.

    “”It gives you an immediate status report,”” said Rains. “” But you begin to wonder what can people say that’s consistently compelling in 140 characters?”” This has Rains wondering about how long Twitter will stay on the scene as a social networking site.

    “”The question is, “”What are you doing?”” Often times the answer to that question is – ‘nothing very interesting,’ Rains said with a pause. “”It will be interesting to see where Twitter will end up in even three years.””

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