Are You Tweeting? Congress Is

Commentary: “What do I care about what some narcissistic idiot had for breakfast? Twitter is the dumbest thing I’ve seen on the Internet so far.” That’s the response I got from an attorney after I mentioned how much I rely on Twitter.

His most recent exposure had been the friendly Twitter war between CNN host Larry King and actor Ashton Kutcher, but his grand daughters each had accounts, so he was all too familiar with inane comments about cute boys and lunchroom antics, and thought that’s all there was. He was shocked to discover many in the non-celebrity, over 40 crowd were actually using it, and reaping benefit.

I won’t go into detail about how Twitter works, except to say the site allows you 140 characters to micro-blog a single thought. Neither will I delve into the numerous macro-blogs that at least partially credit Twitter for successful political events done on short notice. I will say this: Increasingly, Twitter is being used by busy professionals to aggregate information in one place rather than spend time surfing the web to find it. The last thing I need is another website to check, but Twitter has become the ultimate lazy attorney’s reference, because other people do my research for me and serve it up in one place.

For instance, my first morning stop at work (after tea) is my Twitter page, where I follow legal bloggers (for case law updates), news tweets, sports, and grocery stores (for coupons – like I said, “one stop shopping”). Sure, I get the occasional “tweet” about what someone had for breakfast, but the benefit having what I need in one place outweighs the inconvenience – if any – of an occasional social tweet (and lightens my day).

Companies like Whole Foods use the micro-blog site to drive traffic to their own website and alert shoppers to specials. Organizations like CNN simply feed breaking headlines; the company does not even post a link (not enough room). I’m up to date in 5 minutes and spend more time on the articles and issues I really want to understand. If I wanted to, I could even find my congressperson (I don’t). Parents even get some benefit out of it (I’ll leave it to the reader to figure out why).

I’m not worried that Twitter is going to become a bastion of moral decay either. There are always bad actors in any environment (except of course the legal profession). Already, sites like Tweeting Too Hard and Curse Bird are curbing behavior. Moreover, because I pick and choose what I want to see, I don’t have to look at anything that offends me: unlike an RSS or other news feed, I can turn off and on who I follow at any time.

Social media still has some kinks to work out legally. For instance, should employers have policies about what people say on Twitter when they’re on or off the clock? Should an attorney representing a client try to “friend” an adverse party to get access to statements? Can service of process be affected on Facebook. To be sure, we’re in the gold rush phase of the technology. But the sky is not falling, and if Barbara Boxer can tweet, you’re late to the party.

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