I was really proud of myself. I had successfully avoided Twitter since the first time I heard someone mention a “tweet.” I had happily mocked people who spoke in hashtags (#whatsfordinner #Ijustbrushedmyteeth #tired #fedcat). It had long struck me as being one of the sillier social media tools out there. Why did we possibly need a tool that let us speak in hashtags and mini-sentences?
I’m actually not the only one who had looked askance at Twitter and its usefulness. In 2013, roughly 18% of American adults used Twitter as compared with a whopping 71% who used Facebook. But, interestingly, of those adults who use Twitter nearly 50% use it on a daily basis. This suggests to me that, while Twitter may have trouble gaining followers, once a person starts using this microblogging tool, they find they really like it.
Recently, I became one of those 18% who use Twitter and I am quickly becoming one of the daily users. It turns out Twitter is actually pretty useful for getting up-to-date, quality health-related news. Any Twitter user can follow anyone else. This means, you can essentially get daily messages not just from friends but from any individual or group that you find interesting. I use Twitter almost exclusively for following well-known public health organizations. Because I have a keen interest in vaccination, I follow the World Health Organization and other immunization organizations to get fast, accurate information on new issues in vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases.
Twitter is especially great for those of us who are time-crunched and maybe with a bit of an attention deficit. Twitter doesn’t ask you to commit to reading a lot of stuff. Skim your twitter feed for tweets that are of interest. In 50 words, you might learn that a new drug is in trials or that ebola is wreaking havoc in Africa. If you are interested in more detail, most tweets also provide a link to additional information. You get to choose whether to explore further or not.
I would recommend signing up and following 5 or 10 organizations or individuals of interest. Check back in a couple of times a day. Nervous? Start slow by just “retweeting” some of the tweets you find informative. As you get more comfortable with the tools, start making your own tweets. They do not have to be eloquent or inspiring. Make it your own. Use your own voice and style and I will bet you will very quickly come to enjoy spouting off bits of wisdom to the twitterverse.
And, while I cannot guarantee a single tweet of interest, feel free to follow me: @thevaxadvocate.