Twitter gives USC students new avenue for information

To Tweet or not to Tweet? That is the question.

After signing up for Twitter, I found myself compelled to Tweet something as proof of my membership. With no followers, my first tweet in May 2009 read, “ah twitter confuses me,” and after a few more insignificant status updates that week, @Beccalett remained out of commission for nearly a year.

Regardless, I had made a baby step in the most important online frontier since Google. Now, being a USC student allows me to take advantage of all the functions on Twitter.

This is an exciting year for USC; in addition to the new school year and new freshmen class, returning Trojans have a new student union center, a new football coach, a new university president as well as new attractions and venues around campus. And all of this change is taking place in the heart of Los Angeles, a city that is undergoing reforms of its own.

In the epicenter of so much change, news becomes outdated as quickly as it is dispersed. Breaking news that takes hours to appear on Google, takes just seconds on Twitter. Google organizes and refines others’ content, but Twitter organizes its own, making the growing site more efficient.

For USC, Twitter is an incredibly powerful link to the metropolis surrounding the university as well as the microcosm within it.

Like many, I didn’t get the buzz about Twitter at first. Registering is fast, free and simple, but seeing Twitter as more than a source of  meaningless, narcissistic banter is difficult for some.

My ambivalence toward Twitter at USC changed when I rediscovered it as a tool for acquiring information and news. I now follow my favorite magazines, newspapers, shops, companies, professors, celebrities and friends on Twitter. My personal social media network virtually keeps me connected to Los Angeles from anywhere in the world.

I am currently finishing up my summer abroad in London, yet I still feel the pulse of Los Angeles. I am constantly reading L.A. news, Tweets, blogs and Facebook updates I conveniently receive daily on my Blackberry.

People use Twitter for different reasons. Whether you own a small business, are a USC student, an NBA player, Taylor Swift, Barack Obama or a stay-at-home mom, you can use Twitter to connect to useful sources, whatever those may be.

On a person-to-person level, Twitter is just a powerhouse for status-updates. For me, Tweeting is surprisingly therapeutic. The short, random thoughts I have a tendency to blurt out to anyone within earshot now have a proper time and place. It’s like a friend who is always available to listen. Who knew how liberating sending spontaneous thoughts and occurrences to no one in particular could be?

But with a combined user base of more than 100 million users, Twitter is a powerful source of live, interactive information.

While studying in Doheny Library for finals this May, I saw from the window that Leavey Library was being evacuated. The quiet study room murmured with wonder as to what was happening.

My first instinct was to check Twitter. I typed in “USC Leavey Library evacuated,” and instantly learned there was a possible bomb threat, which was being live-Tweeted by students in Leavey. The story didn’t reach the Los Angeles Times home page until after the scare had been cleared.

Many departments, schools and professors have accounts and use Twitter to share useful links and information with students. The career center at Annenberg Tweets job and internship openings daily. Campus media outlets Tweets news updates and links to relevant articles. This fall, most organizations on campus will use Twitter to recruit its members and promote their causes.

Twitter’s search feature is revolutionary, and as a student it has become crucial. I can search for anything I need to know instantly receiving a real-time feed of snippets of information, links and videos in real time.

During live events broadcast on television, what would have been a feature story or YouTube video the next day becomes a topic Tweeted by hundreds of users within seconds.

There is no other site on the web that has this capacity, not because of software, but because Twitter is fueled by an enormous organic user base that is continuously growing and always active.

The brain garbage Tweets about the sandwich you ate for lunch or the shoes you just tried on are just as important to Twitter’s credibility as hard news Tweets. Twitter can be a source of reliable opinions on products; you have the ability to directly seek more information from the provider.

And the more users there are, the more useful Twitter becomes. So get connected and take advantage of the free information that flows from this unique source.

So to Tweet or not to Tweet? There is no question.