Twitter for Boomers: A Breakdown of the Very Basic Aspects of Twitter

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock and/or completely ignoring what’s going on in the outside world, you probably have a vague idea of what Twitter is. But a whole lot of Boomers (myself included) were a little confused when this social media thing came into being: 280 characters? What good is that?

Turns out, it was good for a lot of things: it got officials elected, made celebrities out of nobodies, and launched a thousand businesses or more. Sure, it’s also a hotbed for a lot of nasty stuff, but in reality, it’s just like any piece of tech before it: it’s not good or bad, it just depends on who’s using it.

And in our constantly evolving society, us oldies need to keep up with the kids with their smartphones and their ‘woke’ness. And while it might look weird, Twitter is actually really easy to use, as long as you get the basics down pat.

Since its launch in 2006, Twitter has been leveraged for fun and business, by family and friends, by news and celebrities. It’s been integral in shaping the way we connect with one another, and it’s created an entire sub-culture for the youth to fawn over.

However, it can have its dark side, too; a lot of bad people are on Twitter, spreading fake news that could get unqualified people elected (you know who I mean…), sell scam products or try to phish you of your private info, I mean the list goes on and on. And unfortunately, with the way the world is wired now, you need to be on Twitter to understand a lot of what’s going on, which means that you might fall prey to these bad eggs.

Luckily for you, I’m here to help you get sorted out the right way. I’m going to answer some questions from fellow boomers about Twitter in an easy-to-understand way:

What Exactly is Twitter?

Twitter is a type of website (or ‘app’, if it’s on that smartphone your grandson gave you last Christmas) where people go and share their thoughts, opinions (oh, so many opinions…), news, photos,  and other things of that nature. They’re given 280 characters to do this, so a lot of the things you’ll read there are just little snippets of what most people feel.

Who Posts on Twitter?

Well, pretty much anyone and everyone! It’s a free service, so that means anyone with a computer or smartphone and an internet connection can just sign up and make an account. Everyone from your neighbor Steve to Barack Obama has a Twitter account. It’s also a way for small businesses to advertise their stores for free. Various celebrities from movie stars and TV hosts to musicians and rappers (I don’t get rap, but my kids love it) all have a Twitter account, and they’re on it constantly. I swear, there’s nothing more fun than reading some 23-year-old millionaire whine on Twitter about something inane and temporary. Just wait until they hear about arthritis!

What’s a Tweet?

A tweet is a kind of like a public message that you post on Twitter. It can be read by anyone who sees your account and can be any kind of message that contains text, photos, videos, or links to a website. The caveat though is that your tweet can only contain 280 characters.

A tweet can be about anything, and I mean anything: you want people to know that you gardened today? Tweet it! Did your wife just visit the vet with your Pomeranian? Tweet it! But please, keep it classy: people can say a lot of nasty things online, and we don’t need more of those!

What’s a Retweet?

When you tweet something, it can be retweeted. The same goes for other accounts: if you like a particular tweet and you want to share it with your Twitter followers, you can retweet it. Retweeting is basically getting someone else’s tweet and posting it on your public profile.

But remember: Twitter is a public forum. If you retweet something, the person you retweeted will see whatever you said about their tweet. So remember: even if you disagree with something, be polite about it!

What Does the Lock Mean on Twitter?

If you see a person’s profile that has a small ‘lock’ shape next to their name, that means that the account is private. This means that the account has chosen to hide their tweets from the public. To see their tweets, they’ll have to manually authorize you from viewing it.

This is a common way to keep a sense of privacy in what is essentially a public forum like Twitter. If you’re on Twitter just to keep up with friends and family, this might be the best option for you.

What Does the @ Mean on Twitter?

Using the @ symbol allows you to tag, or mention, a specific user on Twitter whenever you tweet, retweet, or reply to certain tweets. This lets the other user know that you’re talking to them.

But What Does .@ Mean on Twitter?

When you use the @ symbol, you start a conversation with another person. This conversation can be viewed by other people, but only if they follow the other person that you’re talking to. In order to make your conversation more public, you can put a period (.) before the @ so that your followers can view your messages to another person even if they’re not following them.

Twitter is Changing the World, and We Should Change With It

Listen, I get it: learning new technologies can be hard. But it’s also necessary. C’mon, our generation went through several decades of economic prosperity, amazing and disappointing politicians, world events, and so many other changes. Adopting a technology that has far-reaching consequences, not to mention allowing us to stay in touch with our loved ones and start meaningful conversations with people around the world, should be easy-peasy lemon squeezy.

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