Twitter: Social Networking? Or Cyberstalking?
Twitter.com tells people exactly what you're doing. Do you want that?
June 4, 2007— -- MySpace and Facebook may be giants in the digital world, but to some users they are so 2006. The newest social networking site to take off is Twitter.com, a micro-blogging tool that allows members to update friends and strangers on the important moments -- even the most trivial moments -- of their lives.
And if they don't spend every moment of their lives at a computer? Twitter is meant to be used on the go.
The site describes itself as a "global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: What are you doing?" It allows users and their friends to send and receive updates on their comings and goings from anywhere, at any time.
Twitter opened to the public in July 2006, but got major notice after a media convention in March of this year. According to co-founder Biz Stone, Twitter's members doubled to 100,000 between February and March.
Now users range from everyday people to presidential candidates and multinational corporations.
Here's how it works: Each member gets his or her own page on Twitter.com and can update it with daily activities three different ways: through instant messaging, text messaging or by logging on to the site. Twitter automatically updates your page and sends a message about what you're doing to designated "friends."
Stone said the average Twitter user lists six to 12 "friends" on the site and choose to receive cell phone updates from three friends.
But not everyone is average. Some of Twitter's famous political users have thousands of friends.
Democratic Presidential hopeful John Edwards has a Twitter page complete with information on his campaign stops and platform. His May 28 update notes he's "thrilled to be in Iowa with Elizabeth and the kids," and on April 13 he asks his Twitter friends, "Wasn't Elizabeth great on Larry King last night?"
In addition to Edwards, presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., uses Twitters, as does House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. Boehner posts on Twitters about issues pending in Congress, including the Iraq War funding debate, often in the very simplest terms. On May 2, Boehner declared, "GOP unity forces Dems to back down on surrender dates."
Stone said the site has grown tremendously since March, but the company would not release exact numbers.
Some users, however, give the site only mixed reviews. And online critics have voiced concerns that its concept is bound to make online communication more mundane.
Maeleeke Lavan, a copywriter for a manufacturing company in the Southwest, says she updates her Twitter page several times a day during the week. Although she says she enjoys keeping up with friends through the site, Lavan says she's also cautious and limits what she posts to prevent anyone from following her too closely.
"You choose to go to a site like Twitter and 'put yourself out there,' but you don't have to do it," Lavan says. "You control what you share, which is why I don't post things like 'I'll be out of town for an entire week.' To me, posting fun things is one thing … posting personal things like that invites invasiveness."
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