Fashionistas at French Vogue are doing it. Congressmen are doing it. The New York Times is doing it. That kid sitting next to you in your psych class is probably doing it. Even the president of my university, if you believe it, is doing it. And everybody’s talking about it.
The latest phenomenon sweeping the World Wide Web: Twitter.
Currently the hot topic of bemused blogs and befuddled traditional news outlets, Twitter is a social networking site that is basically Facebook— if you took everything away and left the “status” part on top. With a Twitter profile, you post updates about what you’re doing at any given moment in 140 characters or less. You can become a “follower” other people’s Twitter updates (“tweets”), others can “follow” you, and if you really care, you can take it to the next level and receive the constant updates online or right to your phone.
Twittering calls itself a “social utility,” just like Facebook or MySpace, although its more a cross between networking and blogging (call it “microblogging”). But whereas Facebook “stalking” is an embarrassing, guilty pleasure, Twitter makes no apologies for its stalker aspects. There’s even a feature called “nudging” where you can send a friend a friendly reminder to update his or her Twitter status. Apparently calling your friend- or even texting!- and just asking her what she’s up to is passé.
While I eschew the site myself for its completely exhibitionist, self-absorbed presumptions and the fact that people stalking my every move freaks me out, Twitter has its fun upsides. There’s the pleasant surprise of finding the most unexpected Twitter profiles (using the “Find People” feature, I found out that Britney Spears, Jimmy Fallon and Diablo Cody all “tweet”).
What I find most rewarding is the creativity and wit displayed by the more clever Twitter posts. Expressing any thought succinctly in 140 characters is challenging, and many (well, some) of the updates achieve smart and seriously funny observations in under three sentences. My personal favorite: the Twitter page of Columbia University president Lee Bollinger, whose hilariously deadpan postings lead me to believe its not actually PrezBo posting but some sneaky CU student. See, the downside of Twitter is anyone can “tweet” pretending to be, say, Kanye West, and there’s no assurance whether it’s Kanye or not. (Most likely, it’s not.)
But for me, knowing its probably not my school’s president himself tweeting about pining for a Noble Prize or eating Teddy Grahams somehow doesn’t make much of a difference—it is hilarious nonetheless. Twitter is seriously creepy… and somehow, seriously funny. Check it out for yourself.