In defense of Twitter.

Today the Daily Mississippian printed this opinion column by one of my colleagues which for once actually prompted me to write a letter to the editor.  I don’t know if I can actually be published writing a letter to the editor, since I’m on the DM staff, so I’ll elaborate on my letter here.

If you don’t have time to follow the link, the column outlined the author’s annoyance with social media, saying that it would ruin interpersonal relationships and our ability to experience things in the present, since we are always updating Facebook and twitter.

Yes, social media is contributing to vanity and disconnecting youth because we no longer consider the phone our primary link to others.  But ruining interpersonal relationships and ending verbal communication? The author went too far in his criticism of what really are powerful communication tools.

Technological advances mean that we will have to give up older forms of communication and information sharing in favor of others. For instance the CD has given way to the MP3 file, and the phone perhaps will be replaced Skype. More than that though, social networking is a powerful tool for citizen and professional journalists alike, as well as a flattener of society.

Yesterday, I was able to have lunch and take part in a small discussion with Eddie Avila, the director of Rising Voices, which gives small grants to community blogging projects as part of Global Voices Online.  He said that people, no matter their race, social class, nationality, or religion, were part of the larger global community as bloggers. Everyone can now communicate and learn about each other thanks to the internet, which helps us to better understand one another.  Global Voices Online is a great citizen journalism project; it humanizes world events since you can read what people are thinking (in their native language or yours!) and not just what a news organization is reporting.

Facebook and twitter may offer the cheapest and most effective forms of public relations and marketing available today, so it is not fair to completely disregard them.  At the click of a button, nonprofit groups can reach millions of people without spending a nickel.  Another click, and they’ve set up an event with a link to their Paypal account so people can learn about events and donate money to the cause.

Facebook can even serve citizen journalists, by putting writers in touch with people involved in a story.  For example when the police riots occurred in Ecuador last week, I checked online news sources but was unsatisfied with the information I was getting.  So I logged on to Facebook and asked friends in Quito what they were experiencing.  I had the story far before the news sources did, and the peace of mind that my friends were safe.

My fellow DM writer is justified in his annoyance with the way some people use social media, since we are all entitled to our pet peeves.  But as writers, we have to consider all sides of an issue, and if he could see all the good which social media offers the world, perhaps his column would have been different.