Some people like to talk. And talk. And talk a little more. So when social media sites like Facebook started growing in popularity, some people's statuses grew longer, as well. Twitter was one of the first social media platforms that limited the amount of words you could use -- 140 characters to be exact -- in each update that you post.
While some found this strict rule to be quite limiting, others rejoiced in how concise and to-the-point this new form of communication was! In many ways, it follows the structure that journalists use when reporting stories. Who, what, why, where and when in 140 characters, and you'd better believe that you've got to stick to the facts. There are sites such as http://www.twitlonger.com (whose tagline says it all: "TwitLonger -- when you talk too much for Twitter), and there's always the option to share external links, such as a news site, a personal website or a YouTube video, but the whole point of Twitter is that less is more.
Twitter has become a go-to for many people looking for the latest news in the fastest amount of time. You might not have time to visit your favorite news sites multiple times each day, but you can follow your favorite anchors and reporters, and they will keep you up-to-date in real time. When the Sandy Hook School shooting was first announced, every single tweet provided more information. People turned to Twitter and responded with their opinions from all over the country and world, proving how strong Twitter is in connecting us not just to information but to each other. In many ways, tweeting and hashtagging is a way for everyone to feel like they're experiencing situations together -- that someone out there is feeling the exact same way.
Hashtagging is one of the Twitter basics that makes it easy for people to search a specific subject. Say you want to join a conversation about the inaugural address on the day of the event. Once you create a Twitter account (you'll only need to create a username and provide an email address to do so), you can go to the homepage, and on the lower left there's a section that says "Trends." There you'll notice different topics with a # in front of each one. Example: #inauguraladdress. These trends will be the most common hashtag used at that moment. Again, this is a great resource for breaking news because it allows you to cut through the fat of all the other stories out there and get right to the meat.
You can also use the search box at the top of the site to find any topic you'd like to learn more about. If you really like inspiring quotes, you can search for #inspiringquotes (no spaces between). If you are a fan of golf, you can search #golf. The possibilities are endless. There's also an option to search without using a hashtag, but the results will require you to sift more closely to get what you're looking for.
Hashtags are now also showing up on TV shows. The reason for this is so fans of a show can build an online community and conversation around their favorite programs. It's very similar to having a bunch of friends over to watch something together, but you can interact with people all over the world -- expressing your love for your favorite characters or anger with how the writers chose to end the season! Oftentimes, the main actors, producers and writers will also #hashtag the show, and this is a great way to find and stay connected with them, as well.
Twitter is great for people of any age because of how straightforward it is to use. You can click the little star by a tweet you like to "favorite" it, so that you can go back and read it again later. You can also retweet (share an existing tweet) by hitting the arrows that face up and down. And, of course, you can write your own tweets. It's an outstanding and efficient way to know what's going on with family members, friends, culture trends, news and interests.