Hashtagging, re-tweeting, mentions and followers. If these terms are unfamiliar to you, it’s likely you haven’t spent much time in the land of Twitter. But an increasing number of Fairmont students are tweeting on a regular basis.
Twitter is an online social network that focuses on “tweets” or messages of 140 characters or less. It has become the new phenomenon for young and not so young adults, with around 460,000 sign-ups per day. And while many revel in sharing via these microblogs, there’s growing concern about the fallout that occurs when people tweet recklessly.
Many students at Fairmont who tweet believe it’s a harmless and fun way to connect with their peers. But this instant, public communication has led to unintentional conflicts, while some deliberately use the service as an instrument of social change, helping people organize protests.
Fairmont senior Jacob Hesse is a frequent tweeter. “I like using Twitter because it’s new and creative; I usually just post silly things about school, friends and my family. Drama is not involved on my Twitter account,” said Hesse.
Some students enjoy the comical tweets from their friends, but others think the window into personal lives goes too far.
“I hate when people post everything that’s happening in their personal lives on Twitter,” said Fairmont senior Alicia Clark. “I don’t care about what they’re doing every second of the day. I am a big user of Twitter, but I want to keep my personal life private.”
Some students say they see Twitter simply as a way to keep up-to-date with everything in their social circle. “I use Twitter as a way to keep up with what everyone is doing. It’s a way for me to stay in the loop with the latest buzz,” said senior Tommy Shine.
Students also say that Twitter is intriguing to use because it’s the new trend. Since everyone else is tweeting … well, why not? But, sometimes tweeters forget that their posts can spread beyond their circle of followers. In some cases, students’ not-so-favorable posts about teachers have gotten back to their subjects.
Fairmont sophomore Melanie Hageman recognizes that Twitter can cause conflict and isn’t the safest way to communicate. “I like the idea of Twitter; I think it seems fun and harmless, but only to a certain point. I’ve heard things about students getting in trouble because they have been posting inappropriate tweets about their teachers. To me, that is not the smartest idea, since everyone sees what you’re posting. That makes me question the safety of Twitter,” said Hageman.
Clark Howard, the popular radio talk show host, believes Twitter poses dangers that go beyond social missteps.
“Twitter and Facebook allow people to communicate for free and are made to order for criminals. Crooks will friend you and spin a yarn to convince you about their opportunity. Know that this is no different than any other form of affinity fraud, where you’re roped in based on your religion, profession or where you live,” said Howard.
Far beyond the high school scene, Twitter has been used to arrange protests with the Arab Spring conflicts and Occupy Wall Street protests.
According to The New York Times, people have been tweeting about the Arab Spring conflict and have been using Twitter as a way to connect to others in order to organize protests. Tweets from active protesters have played a central role and have helped Arab citizens catch the attention of the government when it was not responsive to their requests. The social media also plays a pivotal role in the Occupy Wall Street movements.
A 2011 study done by the Dubai School of Government has shown that the Arab Spring protests have contributed to the growth of Twitter. “The estimated number of tweets generated by the region’s approximately 1.15 million active Twitter users in the first quarter of 2011 was 22,750,000. This corresponds to 252,000 tweets per day or 3 per second,” said Carol Huang from the Dubai School of Government.
Whether Twitter is used for hard-hitting news, disseminating protest information or just staying in touch and having fun with friends, it is no secret that Twitter has become one of the most commonly used social sites within the past year.