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PAINTER: Twitter can be good if used the right way

• Sep 25, 2017 at 12:00 PM

Do you tweet?

Millions of people around the world do, including myself.

For those who might not be familiar with the term, tweets are online messages restricted to 140 characters posted on Twitter, an online news and social service.

According to Wikipedia, the service was founded in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone and Evan Williams as an idea for people to communicate with each other. As of 2016, Twitter had more than 312 million monthly active users.

“We came across the word ‘twitter’, and it was just perfect. The definition was a short burst of inconsequential information, and ‘chirps from birds,’” Jack Dorsey was quoted as saying.

Now, there are 312 million monthly active users, Wikipedia reported. Twitter is especially popular with the news media, celebrities, sports stars and politicians. They are not afraid to say what’s on their minds.

The most well-known politician using Twitter is President Trump, who has 38.8 million followers. President Trump usually sends tweets out every day. He has been criticized for his constant use of Twitter, but he stands by his method of communicating with America

Trump’s number of followers pales in comparison to pop star Justin Bieber, who has more than 100 million followers. Other celebrities top President Trump as well. Twitter is a great tool for communicating with large numbers of people.

The news media, including the Grand Haven Tribune, has really stepped up its use of Twitter. The Tribune will tweet information on breaking news, upcoming stories and sports scores. The newspaper includes a link to the stories in the Tribune and online. I know I monitor the Tribune’s tweets. During the past presidential election, Twitter was especially popular with media outlets posting the latest news on voting results.

You will also find sports talk shows using Twitter to interact with their audiences. Sending short posts are much easier than trying to reach talk shows by telephone.

But sometimes tweets are sent in a fit of anger or without much thought. Two sports celebrities have been in the news recently for their tweets.

Jemele Hill, co-host of an ESPN sports talk show, came under fire for a tweet she posted about President Trump. Hill posted some unflattering words about the president.

White House officials called for Hill to be fired. Others, though, supported Hill’s right to express her opinions. ESPN didn’t fire Hill, but she did eventually apologize for the tweet.

Kevin Durant of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors was also criticized for sending disparaging tweets about his former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Durant told USA Today that he hasn’t been able to eat or sleep since posting those tweets, according to the Los Angeles Times. Durant, like Hill, apologized for his tweets. Many other celebrities have had similar experiences.

It’s easy to understand why someone would post a negative tweet, as you are reaching a lot of people on Twitter if you have thousands — or millions — of followers.

While I am on Twitter, I only have 29 followers, so my tweets would be pretty meaningless. I also don’t tweet very much. But I do enjoy reading reactions from others.

Some of the benefits of Twitter are clear. It’s easy to use, it’s the fastest way to get breaking news, and you can follow your favorite celebrities and sports stars. It’s also easy to connect with people you know.

The downside, of course, is the limited amount of space. Some people say they prefer to write comments on Facebook because there is no word limit. Twitter posts can get buried and there is less privacy.

Perhaps the biggest issue with Twitter, though, is the tendency to trash talk. We see it all the time from celebrities, sports stars and even noted politicians.

Twitter is growing by leaps and bounds, and is a good tool for communicating with large numbers of people. But it would be better if people would think about the impact of their tweets before they post.

— By Len Painter, Tribune community columnist

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