To Tweet or Not to Tweet: 5 Fast Pros & Cons of Twitter

twitterNew Yorker writer George Packer, aged 50, recently blogged the following to the world: "Every time I hear about Twitter I want to yell 'Stop'. The notion of sending and getting brief updates to and from dozens or thousands of people every few minutes is an image from information hell."

Packer refuses to even try Twitter, yet, ironically, his words, were tweeted and re-tweeted countless times to what he calls "media addicts." (Note, they were tweeted via a link to his blog; the actual quote would be some 57 characters too long for the micro-blogging network.)

The fact that Packer knocks something he hasn't tried has caught the ire of Nick Bilton (@nickbilton), a writer for The New York Times, who posted a lengthy rebuttal (on his blog, of course; nothing is lengthy on Twitter).

Whether to tweet or not to tweet is a question a lot of people are asking themselves, as they weigh the pros of looking hip and new-media savvy against the cons of adding another time-sucking social-networking tool to their day.

I use Twitter myself, but I was once reluctant to, I mean try it. It seemed like too much when I was already using MySpace, Facebook, and Wordpress Blogs. But I have to admit, Twitter is unique and can be a useful business tool. I think of it this way: You use Twitter; it doesn't use you.

Here are five basic pros and cons, as I see them.

5 Pros

  1. Information is instantaneous and at your fingertips. It's especially useful on the go, in form of cellphone apps. You can have multiple accounts and streamline your feed depending on who you follow-all celebrities just your friends or business and news.
  2. On a grand scale, it's pretty amazing that survivors of disasters or tragedies, such as those who lived through the earthquake in Haiti, were able notify their loved ones. Journalist Carel Pedro (@CarelPedre) took photos on his mobile phone and uploaded via TwitPic to provide a glimpse into the devastation just seconds after snapping them.
  3. Big businesses from coffee companies to airlines use Twitter to offer discounts and coupons to their customers. So do local businesses and mom-and-pop restaurants.
  4. Corporations use it to handle customer service issues. Even President Obama (@BarackObama) uses Twitter to share information and answer questions.
  5. Twitter posts are indexed on all the major search engines (Google even shows posts in real time). So you can post links to your blog via Twitter with just a short catchphrase and a TinyURL link, exposing it to millions of potential readers.

5 Cons

  1. Twitter doesn't verify sources or check facts.
  2. Yes, even Twitter has spammers and hackers.
  3. You might find yourself devolving into Looney Tunes territory, talkin' like Tweety Bird and using jargon like twitterspace, twittizen, twitterisms, twits, tweeple, twitterverse and twitterings.
  4. Spoilers abound. There is no way to un-see that revealed surprise ending of the episode of Lost that you still have on your DVR.
  5. You will learn things about your friends' mundane, everyday thoughts and doings you might otherwise not have known, or cared about. Oftentimes, it turns out people you thought were pretty smart, aren't.
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