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Curiosity got the better of me a few months back and I decided to check out Twitter. Yes, I’d vowed not to get involved, thinking it would be full of what Kim Kardashian had for breakfast and Alex Baldwin’s latest apology to someone I’d never heard of. But then I noticed the ‘Follow Me on Twitter’ footnotes to some articles by excellent writers in my daily newspaper and started to investigate. I set up an account when I realised I could keep up with all the world news (@BillNeelyNBC) as well as local stuff from Belfast (@BelTel) and could get daily Arabic language lessons (@GoArabic) in bite size chunks (Twitter posts must be 140 characters or less). I chose a cute photo of one of my newly arrived baby chicks as my avatar – not very fashionable as most people go for photos of themselves, but I like the idea of using a Tweety Pie lookalike for tweeting. Makes sense to me, anyway.

Youngest Baby Chick at One Day

Youngest Baby Chick at One Day

I blogged about my first impressions and how Twitter helped when I was editing a piece of writing here. As time passed, I began to get a handle on my hashtags and how to get messages noticed by particular people using their @username. Mastering the abbreviations and knowing your RTs from your PTs and your MTs is another matter. Some things about Twitter are still a mystery to me, so if you can help answer the questions I pose below, please leave a comment. Overall though, it’s been a very positive experience, so I’ve listed 3 wonders of Twitter, followed by 3 mysteries. Even if you don’t read the rest of the blog, please scroll down for another pic of my little chick. Like me as a Tweeter, she’s grown quite a bit and gained a lot of confidence since January.

    Three Twitter Wonders

1. I can’t think of a better way to keep up with breaking news from around the world than using your mobile phone to check your timeline. If you follow the news stations or agencies which interest you, all their posts including relevant links, will be delivered to the palm of your hand. Unlike the broadcast news however, you can skip over what doesn’t interest you and fast forward to what does.

2. Other writers are amazingly helpful and retweet fantastic articles, tips, advice on writing fiction. This is wonderful. Agents too are a mine of information about submitting, getting published, etc. Scrolling down your Twitter timeline is much quicker than trolling the Internet or using Google with its notorious take on search terms to come up with such gems. When you come across someone who recommends, or indeed blogs on the subject of writing himself/herself, you can ‘Follow’ and never miss a post.

3. If you don’t have time to read the article, blog, link that you’re interested in, you can save it as a ‘Favourite’ and come back to it at your leisure. I love this – it’s so accessible and manageable and once you’ve read and noted what you want, you can remove the ‘Favourite’ tag. What’s nice about this system too is that the other Tweeter gets a little message to say you’ve favourited their Tweet.

    Three Twitter Mysteries

1. How on earth can anyone manage to follow more than a few hundred Tweeters? What does the timeline of a person who follows a thousand, seven thousand, fifty thousand plus on Twitter look like? This is the danger of being obsessed by the numbers, I feel. If you are collecting Followers, then of course following with the hope of a follow back is the way to go. But I really question this motive. It’s quite obvious that one human cannot read the tweets of so many, so it’s a mystery to me why anyone does it.

2. The first point leads to another Twitter mystery. How does anyone who follows 3,973 people know that I did not immediately follow her back and therefore stops following me within 24 hours or so? Maybe there are some stats hidden within Twitter where this can be checked. But my question is, why? Life’s too short.

3. Finally, it’s a mystery to me how Twitter comes up with the category entitled ‘People Like Me’, ie, people I may want to follow because they are similar to me. Come again? Now I can get my head around the ‘Who To Follow’ category (people linked by mutual followings) despite its slightly dictatorial tone, but ‘People Like Me’? The last ‘person like me’ recommended by Twitter was an elderly Catholic priest (male of course) in Dublin. Like me? No, of course not. There was a tenuous link or two, ie, both Irish, he describing himself as a ‘poet’, me tweeting quite a bit about poetry, but otherwise … not a lot in common.

I realise I’m not the most experienced Tweeter, so I’d be very happy if any of the Twitterati who’ve been at this a little longer than me could share their experiences of life with the little blue bird. And before I forget, here’s an up-to-date pic of my baby chick. I’m getting a little worried that 3 of my 5 new hens are actually cockerels. The guy in the background certainly is and practises his crow every morning in response to his dad. Happy days!

'She' may be a 'he'.

‘She’ may be a ‘he’.