I am a constant Twitter user. I began using Twitter in March 2009. My divorce was causing me to shed friends like glaciers calve icebergs and I needed a way to connect with people. Many people I run across don’t understand Twitter and I spend time trying to educate them about appropriate Twitter use.
Twitter is a good way to connect and network with people. Maybe not as good as LinkedIn or Facebook but Twitter has advantages missing from the other two platforms. Twitter is fast and easy to learn with nearly zero learning curve. Create an account, starting following people, chatting, and you’re in. But, if you want to make Twitter more beneficial to your pursuits let me offer you a few tips.
Find and follow interesting people, people whom you think you can learn from. Most people have hobbies. Use a hashtag to find your hobby then follow people who associate with that hobby. For example, I collect comic books. If I use the hashtag #comicbooks I can find people who tweet about comic books, like @DanSlott, @GWillowWilson or @CBR (Comic Book Resource). If I search on the hashtag #makerspace I can find accounts like @TheWeirdTeacher, @Edutopia, or @AnaCristinaPrts tweeting about places encouraging innovative thinking by providing a safe environment for kid and adults to learn how to make cool gadgets and learn 3d printing, CNC routers, electronics, robots, and design.
Don’t follow accounts with what could be called “toxic” content, people using social media to bully, malign, or espouse bigoted or racist nonsense. If you feel compelled to dive into this realm, create a separate Twitter account. Don’t spoil what could be your front-facing, professional Twitter presence by sullying your internet reputation engaging Twitter Trolls.
Don’t follow family, friends, or acquaintances unless they, too, represent or are affiliated with the professional development you seek for yourself.
Facebook is too easily corrupted by stupidity, by racism, by ignorance. Then, to shut those people out, people who are probably friends or family, means having to deal with their toxic attitudes in real life, and “unfriending” someone on Facebook translates into unfriending them in real life, a concept that belies how ludicrous Facebook is, in my opinion. Sometimes, this goes to far, with people making death threats against ‘unfrienders,’ or keying cars, or causing general mayhem.
Twitter is voluntary and by and large supposed to be somewhat solitary, anonymous, self-directed. What I mean by this characterization is you follow an account for a while and if you lose interest in the account, you stop following the account. Period. No harm done. Find another account. The fundamental nature of Twitter is the fluidity of being able to find variety, and move along to find new content. Sort of like listening to the old AM/FM radio stations, or Sirius XM radio; find some stations you like and follow the content. Twitter users are not obligated to follow accounts indefinitely.
On the other hand, if someone stops following you, that is cool, too. It’s not meant as an insult. These people are just moving among content and trying to find something interesting. I see people get offended when they lose followers. These folks don’t understand Twitter, or perhaps they are simply grousing a little bit. I see my follower count climb and dip daily. Who cares.
Twitter can be a good way to find interesting people. Interesting people post interesting content. And, the content is what you are looking for. So, when using Twitter, think about something you want to be better at, better at writing, better at sewing, better at programming – whatever – and find people posting positive, useful content.
Once you have some accounts you follow, maybe you want to organize them into groups. Twitter offers Lists for helping organize accounts which tweet similar content. I have a “Geography” list I use for collecting accounts tweeting content pertaining to geography. Here are a few good accounts and why I follow them.
@CECHR_UoD : Centre for Environmental Change & Human Resilience (University of Dundee (UK)). Posts content pertaining to renewable energy, software tools for analyzing green energy use, and general content about resource use.
@AmateurTraveler : Chris Christensen. Chris runs one of the best travel sites on the Internet. Interviews with world travelers provides fascinating content for any geography course and he travels constantly himself.
@USCensusBureau : Our Census Bureau tweets frequent maps, graphics, charts, and data links for helping us keep up with our dynamic society. That members of the GOP and Tea Party want to restrict census data collection is shameful. Without good data, decision-makers are in the dark and cannot make appropriate use of money or technology. Because people make poor choices with data does not devalue the data. We should be better consumers of our politics.
@PewJournalism/@PewResearch : “Nonpartisan, non-advocacy @pewresearch data on the state of news and information in a changing society.” Pew publishes interesting polls and research which can lead to creating some interesting graphics and maps for class projects.
@EconTalker : Russ Roberts. Russ Roberts is the host of the weekly podcast, “EconTalk.” While economists may balk at being lumped in with geography, economics and geography share a nearly intractable relationship. One of my all-time favorite podcasts is Russ’ interview with Brendan O’Donohoe concerning Frito-Lay and the geography of salty snacks.
@ForeignPolicy : Foreign policy and geopolitics is all about geography. The more we learn about people and the conditions we create the better choices and decisions we can make. Too often, as was witnessed in Iraq War and Afghanistan War, American hubris about conditions on the ground crippled our decision-making and led to critical failures in implementing regime-change and managing local populations.
@Richard_Florida : Richard Florida. Yes, Richard’s last name is Florida. He is a research professor at New York University and co-founder of @CityLab, and founder of the Creative Class Group. Richard’s popularity sky-rocketed in 2003 (gosh; has it been that long?) based on his book, “The Rise of the Creative Class.” In short, cities need to be nice to smart people, cater to smart people, as they will be the primary motivators of the 21st century economy.
@futureguru : Dr. James Canton. Dr. Canton tweets good content, from the use of GIS for publishing maps on the web, analysis of Davos meetings, to the impacts of loans and leadership styles on local and regional politics.
@wef : World Economic Forum. The World Economic Forum tweets graphs, charts, maps pertaining to a host of global topics such as age groups, green energy, the economic impact of global cities, gender, and corruption.
@BeschlossDC : Michael Beschloss. Michael is a presidential historian and contributes to numerous media outlets including @NPR, my personal favorite. Using his Twitter account, Michael promotes brilliant images of American. Today, Super Bowl Sunday, he is passing along images of the first Super Bowl program from 1967. You can also find him tweeting photos of The Beatles meeting Muhammad Ali, images of the 1976 Democratic Debate, and Waylon Jennings hamming it up with Buddy Holly in NYC in 1959.
@GeographicalMag : Royal Geographical Society. Promotes good global geography content in both images and essays.
@marissa_sutera : Little Things Travel. I like finding smaller accounts run by people doing super-good stuff. Like Marissa here. She travels, writes about her travels, and share the travels of other people. These accounts are the real gems of Twitter. Anyone can find and follow Bill Gates. Find and follow the Marissa’s of Twitter. Now, that is the thing!
These are 12 good accounts, with a few bonus accounts tossed in. If you have favorites, I’d like to know, and others would, too. PAX.