I remember the first time I saw a cell phone. I was in sixth grade at Table Mound Elementary School in Dubuque, Iowa. I distinctly remember overhearing an older woman nearby refer to it as “the devil’s walkie-talkie.” Little did she know just how much “the devil’s walkie-talkie” would come to shape the worldwide cultural landscape in the ensuing years.

Since that day in sixth grade, we have seen the cell phone evolve from exorbitant luxury to necessary tool for everyday living. It started simple, with just regular phone calls, but quickly moved on to texting, e-mail,iInternet, Facebook and Twitter. There is even a new device from Mattel that allows your dog to “tweet” to its very own twitter account.

Since its creation in 2006, Twitter.com has grown to 190 million users, tweeting a total of 65 million times a day. Even President Matthew Holland has started tweeting in an effort to stay more connected.

“I’m always eager to reach out to our students and the community in any way that I can,” Holland said. “Twitter seems like a platform that won’t occupy vast amounts of time.”

As President Holland did, I opened an account with Twitter. I created a handle of @smokeboone and I ventured into the “Twitterverse.”

I tweeted a total of four times in two weeks and bored myself more than I’m willing to admit. My tweets include the facts that my 10 a.m. class was evacuated due to a fire alarm and my outrage over the fact that LL Cool J was inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame whilst KISS was snubbed for the 15th straight year! (If you’re not angry, then you need to read that last tweet again.)
I also regaled the world with my tweet saying “Twitter sucks!”

The search for others with more knowledge about Twitter took me to Matt Kushin, associate professor of Communications at UVU. Kushin discussed the important role of social media in journalism.

“This is a time of change in media, and change is opportunity,” Kushin said. “Social media helps journalists to find new ways to tell stories and connect with their audience.”

Kushin also went on to discuss social media as a tool. Just like any other tool in existence, social media can be used for good and bad.

He referred to cyber-bullying and the recent example of two Rutgers University students being charged with an alleged hate crime after tweeting a link to a video of a friend having sex with another man. The young man being video taped committed suicide on Sept. 22 as a result of the video.

For every bad example, there are thousands of productive examples of people that use Twitter and use it well.

Ryan Oaks, a Public Relations student, discussed the value of Twitter as a networking tool. Oaks saw that a communications manager for a major league soccer team would be speaking at an upcoming conference. Oaks tweeted about the person and he tweeted back.

“We have stayed in communication since then and I will have something to talk about with him when we meet in about a week,” Oaks said.

Welcome to the digital avian age. You can speak your mind, listen to others speak theirs or remain blissfully ignorant of it all in 140 characters or less.

How to use Twitter.com: A simple user’s guide

  1. Create an account and handle (username) at www.Twitter.com
  2. Begin searching the site and reading what people have to say.
  3. Speak your mind.
  4. Be shocked when your mom starts following your tweets.
  5. Let the confusion begin.