The six people you meet on Twitter

Thomas Gallick

As a young, attractive member of the media, the question I’m most often saddled with is, “Hey, what’s this Twitter thing and do I need to be on it?”

Well, actually, the question I’m most often asked is, “How do you expect to find a job with a degree in newspaper journalism?” But I won’t count it because the average is thrown off by my parents who ask me hundreds of times a day.

Twitter, I explain to the unenlightened, is a microblogging Web site that allows you to fulfill your exhibitionist tendencies while allowing others to flirt with voyeurism. Truly the best of both worlds.

And do you need to be on it? Certainly. If I remember correctly from psych class, having a Twitter account falls somewhere between physiological needs such as food and water and the need for self actualization on Maslow’s hierarchy.

I actually advise most people I know to give Twitter a try so they can see if documenting their lives in 140-character increments is for them. However, I also issue the warning that you will only interact with six types of people on Twitter, all with their drawbacks.

1. Actual Friends: Sure, you can follow your friends on Twitter, which sounds great until you realize you already know their basic schedules, their likes and dislikes and their philosophies on life. They are the one group you might actually communicate with on Twitter, although if you have anything even negligibly important to say you’ll just tell them in person, or via e-mail, or in a text or a phone call.

2. Advertising Robot: These tricky little devils are the Twitter equivalent of spam. They are not real people. And while it may boost your ego to have more followers, even if they are fake, you’d best not click on any of Kandi or Savannah’s links unless you want a computer full of spyware and images not safe for work.

3. The Gourmand: This person wants — no, needs the world to know just how much they are enjoying every meal. The only thing they ever tweet about is the delicious doughnut or quiche or full rack of lamb they just devoured. And that would be fine if they had a restaurant review blog or even just threw in some creative description from time to time, but most of their 140-character entries only say “Just had delicious club sandwich…NOM NOM NOM.”

4. Twitpic Whiz: Twitpic is a related Web site that allows the microblogger to share photos on Twitter, which sounds like a great idea. Unfortunately, you will have at least one acquaintance who thinks they became Ansel Adams when they purchased a camera phone and the world would be a less magical place without their photographic documentation of every minuscule event. Either that or they think the Twitter community is a very skeptical bunch. Oh, sure you said you just jumped in a puddle … but where’s the hard evidence?

5. Long Lost Relative: You don’t know them, you don’t particularly want them to read your posts, but they share your last name and they’re only following you and a country music station, so you feel bad blocking them.

6. The Paranoiac: These folks follow your posts, then when you go to return the favor you find out they “protect” their updates and you must be approved to read them. The truly sad part is, they always have the least interesting posts. God forbid they allow everyone access to their tweets and their parents or a potential employer finds out they are eating cereal or mowing the lawn.

Yep, those are basically the only people you will come into contact with on Twitter. But all the kids are doing it, so get on board before we get tired of it and the fad ends (right, Facebook?).

Ignore the fact that you will feel obligated to follow people you do not care about in the first place and then learn more about their lives than you ever wanted to know. Disregard that no one has ever written anything important or meaningful in 140 characters or less.

Except for me. My tweets are always filled with verve and panache.

Thomas Gallick is a senior journalism major and member of the Twiterati. Contact him at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter.