The Antisocial Guide to Twitter

Part 1 in our series on How to use the Internet

As the resident technology junkie here @centerbrook, I’m going to use my next few posts to take those of you who might be a little scared of the internet on a whirlwind tour of the tools I use every day to manage the onslaught of noise. If you’re feeling adventurous, jump right in and try out some of the services shown in the diagram above. They won’t bite.

I’m going to break this series into 3 parts:
1. Discovering cool stuff
2. Saving cool stuff to read later
3. Archiving cool stuff for future reference

Why Twitter?
Even if you don’t want to tell the world what you had for breakfast (Pop-Tarts & Wheat Thins), you don’t have to be scared of “social media.” Here’s a little secret about some of the biggest social media sites on the web: They’re not very social.

First: It’s time to move past Facebook. All of your kids did the moment you sent them that friend request. Twitter is the next logical step. But what’s the point. And why would I want to join Twitter? Well, that thing where you email to a group of people stuff you think they might enjoy. That’s what Twitter is. By following someone on Twitter you’re saying: “You’re interesting, please send me interesting stuff.”

Many people don’t get Twitter at first (and that’s OK!). The idiosyncrasies that make Twitter Twitter are turn-offs for many. In this post I’m not going to get into how Twitter works, but give you an overview of why you should use it. Go read Jessica Hische’s great primer to get a handle on the parts of Twitter that likely scared you off in the past. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

For Breaking News

What Twitter does best is distribute information quickly using a lightweight, text-based platform (@breakingnews). During superstorm #Sandy, those of us in the tri-state area learned just how valuable the service has become to the rest of the world. As I sat at home in the dark with no radio (who still owns a radio?) I was able to see haunting photos of Manhattan filling with water. After the storm passed, local officials (@GovMalloyOffice) and news outlets (@WTNH, @NBCConnecticut, @WSHUnews, @thedayct) tweeted locations of downed wires and blocked roads; places to go for a shower or a hot meal; and when we should expect our power to be restored (@CTLightandPower).

And Twitter isn’t all disasters and uprisings: When we landed an unmanned SUV on Mars in August, Twitter was there to break the news and later with high-res video of the landing.

Seriously, follow the rover already (@MarsCuriosity).

As Social Aggregator

Superstorms and breaking news aside, what I’ve always loved about Twitter (at least in the way I choose to use it) is that you can follow your interests, not your friends. You don’t have to be a cool kid with lots of friends to enjoy Twitter. By choosing the people you follow carefully, Twitter becomes a content-filter for what you care about. For me (@derekhayn) that means keeping up with the latest in design and technology, and in my role @centerbrook it means keeping up with our clients.

You can get a lot out of Twitter without ever giving anything back. Of course, giving back in the form of retweets, replies, and favorites encourages others to keep giving. As you can see from my meager 39 followers, I’m more of a taker in the Twitterverse. You should be too if you’re just getting started. Listen to others, then find your voice.

So give it a try. Follow people you find interesting and ignore your friends (unless they’re interesting). My wife (@jennyolgirl) told me she doesn’t understand half the things I tweet about and we’re both OK with that.

Where do I go from here?
For architecture related tweets, try following @Architizer, @architectmag, @MetropolisMag, @ArchRecord, and @PlacesJournal. Go through their followers and see who they follow and retweet. You’ll start to see the same names pop up. Follow them too.

The Twitter website and iOS app are the best places to start. When you outgrow those, try Tweetbot for iOS and Mac. I’ve also heard good things about MetroTwit for Windows.

I’ve put together a list on Twitter with all of the accounts mentioned in this post along with a few more suggestions to get you started. You can find me @derekhayn if you have questions. Have fun.

Derek Hayn

Derek Hayn

Graphic Designer
Centerbrook's Graphic Designer and manager of the Centerbrook website and blog.
Derek Hayn

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