Twitter is on the rise.
Students, faculty and staff accessed Twitter.com an average of 1,500 times on Wednesday, said Greg Miller, manager of Richmond’s network services.
Now that this article is in print, that number will likely jump.
Twitter, the social networking tool that allows users to share brief thoughts or links to other information they find meaningful or interesting, has been on the Internet for five years as of last Monday. Twitter usage on Richmond’s campus, however, is still relatively new.
Zach Remsen, a senior finance major, said he has had a Twitter account since fall 2009.
“I initially just followed athletes like Stewart Cink and Rickie Fowler and definitely did not tweet,” Remsen said. “However, as more and more of my friends got involved with this phenomenon, I found myself beginning to tweet—a lot.”
Amy McMahon , a sophomore economics major, has had a Twitter account since June 2010.
“I tweet funny or weird things I see, my thoughts or funny quotes that my friends say,” McMahon said. “My Twitter is not professional at all.”
Remsen said his tweets didn’t follow any particular pattern or agenda. His Twitter account is tied to his name and contact information, so he said he protected his tweets and took precautions with what he wrote.
Not all Richmond students tweet using their real names. Many senior students have created “apartment Twitters,” in which four apartmentmates use the same Twitter account, usually under a jumbled user name to protect their identities.
Julie Crandell , a senior sociology major, said she and her apartmentmates had a group Twitter account that they used to write funny or random musings.
“We tweet about the most important things going on in our lives,” she said. “You know, waking up one day and not having pink eye, Spring Break, finding out Quizno’s delivers and most recently, making it to the Sweet 16.”
Crandell said she liked the anonymity of sharing a Twitter account and that it maintained privacy in the midst of the senior job search.
Joe Testani , associate director of the Career Development Center, said he thought the practice of separating a professional Twitter account from a personal account was the best way to avoid any repercussions in the job search.
“I think if you have a professional face, and you’re interacting with employers,” Testani said, “they’re definitely going to check what you’re tweeting, who you’re following, what you’ve posted.”
Crandell said she appreciated the marketing uses of the application.
“I think companies use it as a way to promote their products, and people use it to convey their ideas,” she said.
Testani said, depending on a student’s area of study, a Twitter account could be crucial to self-branding or to navigating job opportunities. He also said the 140-character maximum placed on tweets was a good limiting factor.
“I think it’s a pro in a sense that it forces students to really filter down what’s important to convey your message,” he said. “It’s like your 60-second pitch.”
Testani warned against considering tweets a dominant news source, however, and said users needed to be aware of the source of information and what research was done to produce each tweet.
Joel Eisen, a law school professor with more than 1,000 followers on Twitter, said he tweeted predominantly about his interests in environmental and energy causes, Chinese culture and music.
“I’m extremely comfortable with the idea of conveying information in the very limited constraints that Twitter allows you to do,” Eisen said. “In fact, I find myself thinking a lot about how to write more concisely.
“People are saying, ‘Here’s something that just happened and here’s a link to it.’ It has become an invaluable research tool for me.”
Scott Allison, a psychology professor with more than 5,000 followers, said he tweeted about his research on the psychology of heroism and how people perceived heroes.
“What I can do in 140 characters is provide a link to a developed idea,” Allison said. “Most of my tweets have a link to a more expanded article on a topic or a link to my blog.”
Eisen said he worried many people treated Twitter like instant messaging, and he said he did not understand the use of Twitter for more casual or stream-of-consciousness use.
Remsen said although he generally didn’t use Twitter for professional use, he appreciated its journalistic use.
“Twitter, on a global and more serious level, is truly remarkable,” he said. “People were tweeting during the recent Japanese tsunami as well as the Haiti earthquake. It is an amazing tool and provides the world with information which news outlets and journalists may not be able to do.
Look at the uprisings in the Middle East. Twitter has been a main platform to organize riots and provide up-to-the-second information pertaining to such events. I’d like to see Anderson Cooper be everywhere at once.”