As a member of the Baby Boomer generation, I have been a relative newcomer to the world of Twitter. While comfortable with Facebook, Twitter seemed daunting, but then I decided that if the Queen could have a Twitter account, so could I.
Twitter is an excellent tool for getting newsworthy information that has been unfiltered through cable news or reporters. But this also comes with a caveat, the “news” you read may be unverified or just plain rumors. So there is an extra responsibility to verify your sources before you go re-tweeting everything that sounds good to you.
Twitter can be an excellent resource for news not being reported in the media.
This is particularly true of events happening in other countries. Long before the U.S. media woke up to the crisis occurring in Venezuela, people who have Twitter friends either living in that country or who knew what was happening on the ground, could pass information back to the United States. Granted, it helped if you spoke Spanish, but Twitter does offer a translate function
My primary reason for going on Twitter, I must confess, was to see what Donald Trump was going to say next. This started back at the beginning of the 2016 election cycle, and gradually I found additional sources to follow and a few who have followed me as well.
As a newbie to this aspect of social media, I have learned a few lessons, some of them hard.
Do not let Twitter become your entire world
I confess I’m still working on this one. The other night my husband and I went out to dinner and I spent most of the time checking Twitter on my phone. This was bad. Granted we’ve been married nearly 38 years, but still I should have spent my time with my husband, not with strangers.
Twitter can be addictive, especially if you are alone a great deal. Don’t let it be. You can set notifications so that if someone interesting tweets something, you will know. But there are books to read, movies to watch, and friends to call on the phone.
Whether you have 500 followers or 500,000 followers, you are not as important as you think you are.
This is particularly true for those whose only means of communication is through Twitter. Granted, there are well-known news people who regularly appear on television and provide commentary. For them, Twitter is just another tool they use. They reach far more people through other media. If your only voice is on Twitter, then you don’t wield the power that you think you might..
Your best friend one day may become your worst enemy the next.
Perhaps the greatest single danger behind Twitter is the anonymity it can grant to its users. Even if you are using your real name and picture, there is still the feeling that you are somehow protected because you are not going up against anyone face to face. For some, especially with cowards and bullies, that gives them the false courage to say whatever they wish about anyone they don’t like without fear of retribution.
Even those who were raised to always be polite to others, no matter what the circumstances, reject those constraints while on Twitter. So the person you are following or who is following you may be nice as apple pie to you on Twitter until you say something with which they disagree. Then, suddenly, you find they have turned on you like a mama bear defending her cubs.
While most people simply block or mute people they don’t like, beware that there are those people out there who will carry on a vendetta against you no matter what you do. I have found this to be true in the workplace, so why should it be any different on Twitter. Never ending whispering, gossip, and outright lies. My philosophy in cases like these has always been “outlast the bastards.”
The best policy on Twitter is also the best policy in life. If you hear gossip about someone you know on Twitter, don’t take it as gospel fact. Go directly to that person and ask them about it. Yes, that does take a bit of courage, especially if you are like me and not a confrontational person, but doing the right thing sometimes requires a dose of courage.
Be willing to walk away for a while. Take a Twitter Sabbath.
Negative energy does nobody any good. Toxicity can be draining – physically, emotionally, spiritually. Just as you should avoid negative people in your life, there are times to get away from negative energy on Twitter or any other form of social media that is adversely affecting you.
Maybe all you need is a day. The world will still go on and you can get your news from other sources. Maybe you need longer. Sometimes wounds inflicted by others take a while to heal. Don’t let them fester. Take care of yourself first.
Use Twitter. Don’t let Twitter use you.
There are probably some out there ready to call me a hypocrite. It is true that I write opinion pieces for a site that publishes regularly on Twitter. In fact, this may be where you discovered this article. Yes, it is true that I use Twitter as a source for ideas to write about, and yes, it is true that I probably spend more time on Twitter than I should.
But I am always trying to find the right balance in my life. Balance between work and prayer. Balance between family and friends. I doubt that I will ever achieve that perfect balance, but each day I try to do better. That is all I can do.
I will close with the words of the 14th century Benedictine mystic Julian of Norwich
All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.