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Twitter Turns 10

Published: March 15, 2016

“Just setting up my twttr.”

That was it, the first-ever tweet, which came off the fingertips of Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey on March 21, 2006.

Ten years ago, nobody knew what a tweet was. Today, the world’s all atwitter with them. Apparently there’s something magical about messages where users, though limited to 140 characters, can post comments—called tweets—to share with the rest of mankind. Singers Katy Perry and Justin Bieber know the power of the social media phenomena, ranking one-two in the number of followers with more than 83 million and 76 million, respectively.

Overall, there are more than 320 million active Twitter users worldwide, who push out roughly 60 million tweets per day. That’s a lot of tweeting.

“Twitter users are very dedicated. I wouldn’t go a day without looking at Twitter,” said John Shrader, an assistant professor of journalism, who didn’t jump on the Twitter bandwagon until 2009. “In those 10 years, it’s changed everything from the way television programs are done, the way we watch television, the way politicians do their jobs. Twitter isn’t the only social media, but it’s so instant.”

Knowing the power of Twitter, Shrader incorporates it into class. For example, he recently attended a Los Angeles Clippers game with students and had them tweet before, during and after the game.

“In all of my journalism and media skills classes, I require students to use social media,” he said. “Today, that’s just part of the deal. I ask my students to use Twitter because it’s just easier for all of us to be on the same format. For us in journalism, to use a social medium, I think Twitter is as good as any of them.”

Betina Hsieh, an assistant professor in CSULB’s College of Education, also uses Twitter as a classroom tool, but cautioned that it’s not for the faint of heart.

“I was skeptical,” said Hsieh, who learned about Twitter through a professional conference before tackling it in 2012. “I stayed away from it for a long time. Once I saw the possibilities I was convinced and started using it, but you have to be really careful because you are using such a public platform. It’s actually fascinating how small and big the world can be via Twitter.”

She incorporates it into her classroom by requiring every student to have a Twitter account so they can follow her, as well as classmates. Not everyone embraces it, according to Hsieh, who noted some students come in as skeptics, but once they see the way it’s used in class they seem to find it helpful.

“I use it to share resources and they (students) use it to communicate with me,” said Hsieh. “Twitter is the fastest way to get ahold of me. I reply fast on e-mail, but my Twitter notifications come up right away. It’s almost like having virtual office hours.”

Though she feels it’s a great tool, Hsieh also notes that Twitter has a steep learning curve and requires a lot of effort in order to use it properly.

“It’s simple, but not easy,” she said. “I have to fight the entropy of not going on Twitter, because it’s not something that is self-sustaining. You have to be on Twitter. It’s a very proactive medium.”

And while Shrader and Hsieh incorporate Twitter into their classroom efforts, campus communicator Sylvia Rodemeyer and CSULB President Jane Conoley have a somewhat different charge when tweeting.

Rodemeyer, the digital content and social media lead for Marketing and Communications on campus, manages the campus’ main Twitter channel, which now has just under 12,000 followers, mostly CSULB students.

“I hope that Twitter becomes and continues to be one of the key places that students get information,” she said. “It’s very student driven and it tends to be the quickest way to get feedback from students. Twitter creates conversation. My hope is that it’s a channel that people check often.”

After 10 years, it’s quite clear Twitter is not going away, but it’s definitely shifting, according to Rodemeyer, who feels the medium has gained popularity, cultural relevance and, maybe most importantly, credibility.

“It has really driven news stories instead of just reporting on them,” she said. “It remains an active news channel, but it’s also becoming a place for key influencers to become storytellers and amplifiers.”

One of those “influencers” is CSULB President Jane Conoley, who is not shy about communicating events she’s attending via Twitter—from 49er basketball games to Anthropology Department meetings—as well as important programs such as the Long Beach College Promise or the campus’ STRIVE Campaign to raise awareness about student veterans.