So, this quarter, I read 4 student researched essays on the popularity of Facebook or Twitter.  All four were excellent: good research, thoughtful analysis of the causes and effects (without going into the usual “the world will end” or “this stuff is awesome” conclusion that often sometimes happens with cause/effect analysis essays).

The students who focused on Twitter both joined Twitter as part of their “research” and they convinced me to join, too (the fact that Rosemary Feal of the MLA is twittering in anticipation of the convention this year also enticed me to join). 

Both students noted the phenomenon of odd strangers “following” them, and that most of the tweets were the usual Facebook-like status updates about Seinfeldian nothingness.  One student concluded that Twitter seemed to be more common with “older” people (you know, those of us older than 25) than with people his age (18ish) and that they used Twitter to connect on professional issues or to keep up with whatever sort of news that interested them.

Since I told both students I had joined  Twitter, and showed them my home page (or whatever it’s called), they both “interviewed” me, novice user, as part of their research, pointing out with some glee that after 3 months I only had 3 followers, and only followed 6 others, 5 of them professionally-related organizations, including the MLA.  {Note: neither student asked to follow me, thankfully.}

So, what have I concluded about Twitter? Well, it is amusing to read Rosemary’s tweets promoting the convention (see the Hurston film! buy the cool MLA t-shirts! go to this panel!). And I can see instant updates from The Chronicle or Inside Higher Ed.  And my one friend is quite witty with her tweets.

But  in all of those cases, I’d much prefer to read the blogs: I can read a more detailed overview of a Chronicle or Inside Higher Ed story in Google Reader; I can find out more about my friend’s subway incident on her Facebook page; and Rosemary can give a much more vivid sense of what is happening in Philly during the convention on the convention blog she promises to do again this year.  140 characters can point elsewhere or provide a quick moment of wit, but no, it doesn’t quite satisfy.

Since I so rarely remember to check Twitter, I decided to read Rosemary’s tweets the old fashioned way: by subscribing to them in Google Reader.

Twitter: Twitterdee or Twitterdum? Discuss (in more than 140 characters, please).