Last Monday I finally cracked and signed up for Twitter. All this technology is slightly doing my head in. I am trying to sort out what each aspect of it is actually for, and this is as far as I’ve got:
Twitter: this is the new public face of the internet. Great for news, the witty aperçus of Stephen Fry and Chris Addison, the biting wit of Alistair Campbell and the sour grapes of John Prescott. Not so great for attempts at any of these from people you may actually know. You ‘follow’ organisations and individuals, and in turn they follow you. You may also contact them directly by putting @ in front of their Twitter name and there’s also something to be done with the hash key but I haven’t worked it out yet. You can link your tweets to Facebook, where they become your status updates, all in 140 characters. After working all this out, you are paralysed by the speed and openness of it all, and find you have nothing to say.
Key lesson: Following in real life is bad. Following on Twitter is good.
Facebook: this is for communicating with your 400 carefully selected ‘friends’, at least 100 of whom you have never met. Facebook has become increasingly interactive and now it’s possible to let your friends know how you feel, share items such as news pieces from elsewhere on the internet, join a multitude of groups, and waste a lot of time on quizzes and on tending your virtual farm. It also, famously, allows you to ‘tag’ your friends in photos of your nights out. All these activities may be commented on by others. Therefore most people wisely choose a privacy setting which doesn’t allow their Facebook page to be seen by the general public - whilst forgetting they are ‘friends’ with their parents and their boss.
Key lesson: Facebook friends are not the same as real friends.
A blog: this is for expressing your opinions in as many or as few characters as you wish. Many people blog under assumed names because they want to slag their employer, friends, partner and/ or neighbourhood. As with Twitter but more so, bloggers who choose to identify themselves by their real names in open access blogs (i.e. without registration) should always remember that anyone can read their posts and comments. New blog posts can be linked to Facebook and Twitter, and visits to your blog can be monitored with Statcounter.
Key lesson: Just because anyone can read your blog, it doesn’t mean that they will.
e-mail: this used to be how we all communicated in the old days before we could message each other, comment and give thumbs ups on Facebook, do the @person thing on Twitter, and comment on each others’ blogs (and Skype each other, but I’m not going there). Now your personal e-mail account is the centre of operations for receiving information about who is doing all these things, who wants to be your Facebook friend and who is following you on Twitter, plus the occasional real e-mail from your aunt who thinks Facebook is for child molesters.
Key lesson: Do not put all this crap through your work e-mail or you’ll never get any work done ever again.
Google: our modern portal to the internet. Incredibly useful. Anything you want to know, someone else has already asked about it on a forum somewhere. Anyone you have met has done something which appears on Google and probably also on YouTube. Anywhere you want to go, someone has already been there and told TripAdvisor about it. Just type it in.
Key lesson: Not everything you read on the internet is true.