By Suzie Vyletel
I first created a Twitter account for extra credit in my high school physics class. Our teacher, Mr. Pata, was a really progressive and new-agey teacher who believed in sitting in a circle and throwing away the textbook and hands-on experiences. It was a cool class actually, now that I think back on it. But anyway, back to Twitter. At first, I never tweeted, only followed the physics accounts we were supposed to for the class. Then, slowly, as Twitter caught on (because back in 2010, I didn’t know many people who actually used Twitter), I began to venture out into the Twittersphere. I followed celebrities, brands I liked, stores and restaurants, and friends of mine. It was a slow learning process, trying to tailor my Twitter feed to what I needed or wanted (because, after all, it is hard to interact with something that’s not tailored for us anymore, right?) and also trying to learn how to tweet. Eventually, my “thin” tweets about long lines in the cafeteria or OMG that episode of the Kardashians last night evolved into “thick” tweets containing layers of information and links and photos and hashtags that really made use of Twitter as a resource and tool.
While my first tweets tended to look like this:
This is, by the way, a quote from Mulan.
Eventually, I started adding hashtags, links to Instagram, and tagging other Twitter users:
I didn’t realize it, but my view of Twitter had changed over those few years from being a “marketing tool, a public diary, a communal news feed, or even, simply, a sort of brain game” to a “low-maintenance way to feel connected to family, friends, celebrities,” as Julian Dibbell put it. I stopped being intimidated by Twitter as something for PR and marketing reps to use, and started embracing it as a way to share and gather lots of information quickly and easily. I wonder if that change was my own abilities on Twitter evolving, or if it was a subconscious response to the changing world of Twitter? There is something to be said, however, of the so-called “thin” tweets. Sometimes what I love reading, and why I follow certain people, is because of their flat, somewhat useless tweets. Sometimes, I will swipe across a tweet that was clearly a no-filter-straight-from-my-thoughts-to-text kind of observation or personal update. And I enjoy it! I love reading those tweets, because they are so personal and exactly the kinds of information that NEVER MAKE IT TO PRINT OTHERWISE. Twitter is great for those TFLN and “wow the caf has tater tots today” kind of updates because Facebook has become a political platform (at least my news feed has) and everyone just wants someplace to record and share their version of life at that moment and who can blame them for that? Those are the kinds of things that make me feel like I’m experiencing life right alongside someone else across the globe, because of the real-time aspect of these updates.
Now that I feel that I sufficiently justified the validity of “thin” tweets, let me return to the “thick” ones, because there has to be a balance. I mentioned before that my personal tweets have evolved from thin to thick, generally speaking, though still including thin tweets as this is the nature of Twitter after all, so this assignment was pretty easy for me. Creating a thick tweet like this one:
wasn’t strange or difficult because I am so used to it now. Employing the use of hashtags and links is part of the fun of Twitter for me, and I enjoy thick tweets because they are engaging and force me to become involved with the information provided. I wonder if this knack for multimedia use is unique to our generation, or if it is something that the ever-changing nature of technology forces people to learn out of necessity? Ever since reading the articles about Twitter, I started to notice the differences between tweets on my feed, and to take note of where thick or thin tweets were coming from (which users). It is not surprising to note that the celebrities and companies/brands that I follow tend to layer more information in their tweets such as links to websites or photos, times and dates, other Twitter handles and hashtags. Personal users (the average Joe) on my feed produced thinner tweets, though often still linking to a photo or using a hashtag. I do appreciate this assignment and the articles provided to use because I now have a more well-rounded view of and appreciation for Twitter. Before, I was a more passive consumer, but now I can be a thoughtful critic and contributor who utilizes the full potential of Twitter.