Joining the Twitterati - Joel Hall

While I like to consider myself someone in the know about many matters, there is a stubborn bone in my body that, sometimes, makes it difficult for me to embrace new technologies.

Perhaps, it is my skeptical nature, or my nostalgia for things of the past, but I often find myself being dragged into the future, kicking and screaming.

Most of the time, however, when I get there, I realize things aren't so bad, after all.

After my e-mail address became clogged with useless SPAM from people hawking fake watches and medicines, I reluctantly opened a Gmail account. After about a day of using it, I realized why so many of my friends had made the switch years earlier.

After some hesitation, I recently started using Google Chrome, a free web browser, which is one of Google's newer products. At first, I thought the software was "too cool" and full of itself, because it used words like "obliterate," instead of "delete" and phrases like "under the hood," instead of "system settings."

However, the browser is really simple, highly adaptable to various applications and extremely fast. Slowly, I'm learning that technology does make some things better.

Until recently, however, there was a special place on the "things-that-annoy-me" list for Twitter.

At first glance, Twitter seemed to exemplify the rise of self-importance - a central theme of the first decade of the new millennium. This theme is often aided by new technologies, such as blogs, YouTube, and other forms of social media.

No new technology, in recent memory, has gotten under my skin more than Twitter. When the "Twitter effect" began to take over the news and late-night television, it really just seemed like the latest enabling tool for, well, tools.

It seemed like every famous and non-famous person was starting a Twitter account for the mere sake of letting people know whatever pointless thing they were doing at any time of the day. I now had the pleasure of knowing, in real time, what Bono had for lunch, or if Sean "Diddy" Combs was combing his hair.

"Twitter Tracker," a hilarious sketch on "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien," poked fun at the over importance given to Twitter. Like many others, I saw the humor and pointlessness of many "Tweets," while at the same time, was disturbed at how "Tweets" had become source material for many journalists.

However, I've started to learn that Twitter can be a powerful tool for people who know how to use it.

I'm often at a loss as to how traffic in Atlanta can go from fine to catastrophic for almost no reason at all. Now, I get instant Atlanta traffic updates from Twitter and can often avoid inconvenient, fun-hindering accidents.

If something catastrophic were to happen, I'm now connected to several emergency warning organizations that can give me real-time information, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Also, I find that many people are unaware that Twitter is one of the most powerful tools out there, right now, for finding a job. Through Simply Hired and other organizations active on Twitter, multiple jobs are advertised throughout the day. A savvy member of the "Twitterati" can fashion an automatic search engine that spits out jobs relevant to that person's skills and geographical area, 24-hours a day.

Given the state of the economy, job seekers need to use every tool at their disposal, and Twitter, despite my misgivings about it, may be one of the technologies that helps people get through the recession.

There are still a lot of stupid technologies out there, but I'm learning more and more that new technology, like books, are better once you get past the cover.

Joel Hall covers government and politics for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at jhall@news-daily.com.