Columns » John Brummett

Getting Twitter, and not

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A funny thing happened on this Twitter thing on April Fool's Day, appropriately.

For those who don't know, and I so envy you for not knowing, Twitter is this networking site on the Internet that is a current rage. You write brief messages in severely limited space. It's called tweeting. People follow you and what you post. You follow other people and what they post. Things get linked. It's called social media.

I maintain a Twitter account, not to keep up with current rages, for that is out of the question. I simply want to stay in the reasonable periphery.

Twitter is not the latest thing. It's probably the third from the latest. But I don't know what the other two are.

Anyway, I'd had a particularly productive day during which I had rewritten one column and composed two others. I'd also gone for a walk and undertaken a little yard-maintenance project.

I was online late in the evening and I happened to notice that I hadn't written anything on Twitter in several days.

I decided to use Twitter's little box permitting 140 characters to report on those aforementioned accomplishments — the three columns, the exercise, the yard work. With only a bit of space remaining in the box with which to sum up, I wrote: “Pooped.”

You know — tired, worn out, plumb tuckered, spent, exhausted.

Then I signed off and prepared to go to bed. That's when I saw the flashing red light on the hand-held Internet device, the signal for new e-mail.

Some guy was telling me that it was gross for me to trivialize Twitter by using it to report personal activity of that nature.

There hadn't been enough space to say “I am” before I said “pooped,” which, yes, can carry, when standing alone, a slang scatological implication.

I hurried to Twitter and quickly found how to delete a post.

Since then I've endeavored to take Twitter more seriously, or at least carefully. I pored over my list of followers and picked out 25 or 30 of them who seemed interesting. I clicked to follow them.

Still, I have to say that Twitter is mostly superfluous. The upside, though, is that there is always the possibility that something valuable will show up or that something major will happen and Twitter will be on site before major media.

It's already happened, such as in the bombings in Mumbai or a jet plane landing in the Hudson. By being instantly distributed to an exponentially expanding network, it can give you an eyewitness account directly, well before the TV station or newspaper can get to the eyewitness.

You'll have to read a lot of frogs before you'll read a prince. You might have to read that a guy wrote three newspaper columns and went for a walk and was pooped, as in tired.

Yet it can work this way: I clicked on somebody who had linked to the tweets of Jessica Dean. She's the young woman who took that other young woman's place on Channel 7 on “Choose Your News,” which, of course, you can't do.

I followed the link to see that Dean was tweeting as she was riding in a TV van en route to cover the tornado-torn regions of Southwest Arkansas.

A tornado is real news. No one chooses it.

Dean tweeted as she ventured southwest out of Hot Springs to Glenwood and on to Daisy along two-laned highways, retracing a frequent trip of my childhood through logging woods to visit grandparents. I was right there with her.

Then, in Dierks, she tweeted that the top of the city water plant had been blown off.

This was worthy and alarming information. I still have kinfolks in Dierks and I hadn't heard of any direct hits or real damage there. I was concerned.

So I followed Dean's tweets. She tweeted that the National Guard was bringing drinking water. She tweeted that the town was getting an emergency hookup with Nashville's water system. The severe tree damage was outside of town, she tweeted as she and her cameraman drove west toward De Queen.

Dean tweeted later that she was worried about getting back to Little Rock in time to prepare her report for 6 p.m. But if you had been following her day on Twitter, you already had her report. That's the very essence and advantage of the new media, it seems to me.

Whether this is a matter of synergy that helps her TV station or a matter of self-cannibalizing by which new media devices are destroying her TV station — that I don't know and can't begin to say. Let's check back in five years. Or maybe two.

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