How do you use Twitter? An archivist explains how she uses Twitter

I’m starting a new feature here at Save the Media, called What the heck do you do on Twitter.” It’s an occasional feature, which in journalism-speak means I’ll do it when I have a chance. The idea is to showcase a variety of people who are using Twitter in creative ways. My emphasis, of course, is on how people use Twitter for journalism, but I want to highlight all types of applications. Hopefully, it will be a place we can all learn. (Read the whole series.)

If you’d like to be featured (don’t be shy), send me an e-mail at savethemedia@yahoo.com or direct message me on Twitter.

Now,Susan Kline explains how she uses Twitter. She is an archivist and historian of 20th century American History who lives in Upstate New York.  She enjoys photography, thrift stores and vegetarian cuisines. Here are her answers to my questions:

How long have you been on Twitter? I started using it off and on in November of 2008.

Why did you get started? Well, I’d always been someone who was pretty active online with everything from IRC to online journals and blogs to chat rooms, IM, Facebook, etc. But Twitter was one thing I was having a hard time getting my head around. I had heard of it for awhile and have to admit I made fun of it with a coworker. We’d trade online articles about people who were obsessed with it. I was biased towards Facebook and the status update concept there. I guess I didn’t think anything of value could come from so few words and profiles that don’t really have all that much information. I started taking the “Nebraska Learns 2.0″ online course through the Nebraska Library Commission, and Twitter was one of the things “23 Things” on the list. We were urged to try and it and see how librarians were using it.

Did it end up being different than you expected? Yes. I didn’t expect to really like it, and I ended up liking it quite a bit. I use it daily now. I wasn’t ready for how people act with such a herd mentality through it. I mean Michael Jackson’s death was pretty much reported first through Twitter rather than any “official” source. People were absolutely sure he was dead when no other source was saying so yet. What if they’d all been wrong?

And I didn’t expect all the spam followers, but really it’s not surprising since Twitter’s become more popular. But I could see the potential for networking purposes.

How much time do you spent on Twitter daily? How many days a week do you log on? I log in pretty much seven days a week. I use it more on weekdays though, seems like that’s when people are updating more so there tends to be more to read on those days. I tweet maybe five times a day, retweet a time or two a day and send replies to other people’s tweets maybe two to three times a day.

What is the primary reason you use Twitter? I use it primarily to network and interact with people in my field. It’s a way to keep up with that other archivists are doing professionally and find links to relevant news stories and blog posts or other tools that are helpful professionally. I can also throw question or problem out there and get a response within a few hours (at most) from someone who is willing to tell me how they did it or provide a link to help me understand something. When I lived in Nebraska, I could literally count on my hands how many archivists there were there. I wasn’t working as an archivist at the time, and it was hard to find ways to stay active professionally.  In other words, my geographic location made it hard to interact with others in my field.

Twitter really opened that up, and I was able to find others throughout the country. They’re really aren’t a ton of archivists out there, you know. How often do you run into one at a party? It’s not like being an accountant or a teacher where your profession’s knowledge base is more widespread.

What do you feel you get out of your Twitter use? See above. Also the phenomena of using Twitter at conferences appeals to me. If you can’t travel a lot to professional meetings because of time or money constraints, it’s a helpful way to get people’s opinions and know what’s going on.

I admit some days though it’s mostly a distraction for me.

Do you mainly follow people you know in the face-to-face world, strangers, or a little bit of both? Most of my list is people I don’t know “in real life.” I have a few people I’d consider “pre-Twitter face-to-face” friends on there, but they don’t use it much. I mainly keep up with face-to-face friends and family through Facebook, and use Twitter for people I don’t know. I

t’s fun to meet your Twitter followers and people you follow though. I ran into one on the bus one morning on my way into work, and someone approached me at a conference several months ago and said that she “knew me” and turns out she’s someone I had been connecting with on Twitter for awhile. It was a nice icebreaker, and we ended up talking quite a bit at the conference. I’m happy to say we were able to keep connecting after the conference through the medium.

Anything else you like to add about your Twitter use? Building Twitter relationships is not for those who aren’t patient. I always tell people you have to get to know others on Twitter by following them for awhile. There’s no extensive profiles like on other sites for you to read or photos for you to look at and get a sense of the person.

Gina

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