http://danvillesanramon.com/print/story/print/2009/05/01/teen-life-in-the-twitter-sphere


Danville Express

Living - May 1, 2009

Teen life in the Twitter-sphere

by Maria Shen

Twitter! First, MySpace was the teen obsession. Then, Facebook. And, now, finally, we've arrived at an Oprah-approved technology - Twitter.

Twitter offers a steady stream of uncluttered status messages from family, friends, CNN and famous people (like Oprah or Samuel L. Jackson). By logging onto my account, I can see that my best friend is bored, my boyfriend is angsty, and Oprah is feeling very "21st century."

Personally, I'm all a twitter over this wonderful Web site. At any given moment, I'm sent a 140-character window into a person's life - his complaints, worries and profound insights on the state of being. One of my friends tells the following story to the net: "Senior Cut Day. I didn't cut. My teacher marked me absent on accident, and my mom won't call school and excuse it bc she 'won't lie for me.'"

See? Aren't these things fun to read?

What hurts my soul is that there are strong feelings against this Web site. While waiting before class the other day, I absentmindedly confessed my love for Twitter. "Oh!" my friend Rebbecca squealed, "I have a Twitter, too! Gimme a tweet!"

"A 'tweet'?" another friend asked doubtfully. Her eyes were judgmental.

"It means sending a message via Twitter," I explained.

"A Twitter is so wannabe Facebook," the skeptical friend said. "It's just a bunch of Facebook status messages."

Twitter, to some people, seems like a superfluous addendum on top of all the other tech-y gadgets we have. One of my teachers, whose brother just got into Twitter, complains about Twitter as a safety issue. Her brother had tweeted that he was going on a weeklong vacation with his family. My teacher called him and told him to take that message off immediately, complaining that he had just announced to the world anyone could try to burglarize his house during his time away.

I suppose there are always health risks involved when the virtual world collides with the real one. But Twitter doesn't present any more threat than Facebook does, or MySpace did (or "does," for those ancients still using MySpace).

However, Twitter does hold its own in the virtual world. There's a reason millions use it on a day-to-day basis. One of the Twitter's greatest attributes is its functionality on the cell phone. Tweets can be sent and received through text messages. Users can choose which friends' Twitters they'd like to follow via cell phone and which they'd much rather check out on the Web.

With my unlimited texting plan, I can receive as many updates to my friends' lives as I wish on my cell phone as long as I'm not annoyed by the constant beeping on my phone. For teens with iPhones (which seems like nearly everyone in Danville), applications like "Twinkle" can help them update their Twitter via a handy tool on their phones. Another reason why teens love Twitter is the Tweetmeme, which provides the most talked-about links on Twitter. You can see the sites everyone is talking about and check them out for yourself.

In some ways, Twitter is comparable to Google News. You can search terms like "Obama" or "Apple" to see what everyone's saying about them. You can tailor the news feeds to your personal needs, only reading about people who interest you. From news about your neighbor's new dog to the hospitalization of Stephen Hawking, Twitter is a site that delivers the most you-specific news on the Web.

Is it any wonder, then, that Twitter is now the third most popular social networking site? (The first is Facebook and second is MySpace.) Twitter is also the fastest-growing site, according to Nielsen.com. Twitter is such a force of nature that programs have been created specifically for the use of it. TweetDeck, for example, is a desktop application that gives the user the "ability to group people together and search across the twittersphere. Grouping friends or work colleagues separately means you have a window on all aspects of your twitter life. Searching across the twittersphere means you can monitor any subject within Twitter. These additional columns automatically update so providing the user with a very effective dashboard of realtime information."

The whole Twitter phenomenon is founded, it seems to me, on the voyeuristic, Web-addicted tendencies of this generation. With all the applications out there for Twitter and the 24/7 text message updates, it does seem that everyone has become just a tad fanatical. Hmm, maybe I can put these thoughts on Twitter - it would only take 32 tweets.

Maria Shen, reporting on Generation Y, is a senior at Monte Vista High School. She founded Contra Costa County's Young Bohemians creative writing club and is editor of Voicebox, a literary magazine. E-mail her at youngbohemians@gmail.com.

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