Recently, the social media website Twitter celebrated its seventh birthday. Twitter has around 500 million total users. While this might not be as impressive as social media giant Facebook’s billion users, Twitter still packs a punch. I would estimate that over half of the kids at my school have a Twitter account, even those who vehemently said, for years, “I will never, ever get a Twitter.”
I’ve been tweeting for over a year and a half now, and I really, really like this site. I have the mobile app on my phone, and I use it way more than I actually log onto a manual computer. Twitter is a site that makes it easy to use on a phone. The format is quite simple. People create accounts, and other people “follow” those accounts. But following someone does not mean that they must follow you, like being their friend on Facebook.
This means that someone like Justin Bieber can have over 37 million followers, but only follow some 100,000. If those statistics seem high, that’s because they are. I hover around 200 followers and follow around 350. Of course, if I didn’t want anyone to be able to follow me and see all my tweets, I could put my account on private. The private account simply makes people request to follow you instead of being able to see everything immediately. Many teenagers, I know, put their accounts on private so that colleges or jobs they have recently applied to won’t snoop on their lives.
Personally, I don’t post anything on my Twitter that would make me lose a job or my college credibility, so my account is public. This means that my followers can also retweet something of mine, or post it again to their account. Some accounts exist for the sole purpose of retweets, and are usually run by an anonymous person saying witty or useful tips. Some of those include @CuteEmergency, which posts pictures of adorable animals, or @FemalePains, which has someone who humorously compiles all the problems with being a girl.
Another major element of Twitter is the hashtag, or number sign. If I were to post “#puppies,” that word would appear as a link to any other public tweet in the world about puppies. Common hashtags of kids include words like “tired,” “school,” or “whensgraduation.” (Punctuation doesn’t work in hashtags.) It’s what the little number sign at the bottom of nearly every TV show is today. When major world events happen, like the presidential debates in November or Kevin Ware’s recent, horrible knee injury, so many people tweet about them that they “trend.”
However, my favorite part about Twitter isn’t being retweeted by my full couple hundred followers, or seeing what other people think about #macandcheese. I like it because I can easily subscribe to newspapers and see what’s going on in the world by scrolling through my phone. It’s how I learn about more obscure things that I care about, or about other national news that I wouldn’t have had time to watch on TV or read in the paper. Some of my favorites include The Associated Press (@AP) Le Monde, a major French newspaper (@lemondefr) and of course, the Kane County Chronicle (@kcchronicle.)
Even my dad has a Twitter account to read up on his favorite celebrities. So, go ahead, create a Twitter account and retweet this column – which also will be posted online – as many times as you like.
• Courtney Phelan is a senior at Geneva High School. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.