When I first got to grad school, Twitter was something about which I really only heard in disparaging terms. “Why do I need to know that you just ate a sandwich and took a nap?” etc. This was before I really started to think of it in terms of a “microblogging” tool rather than an “over-sharing” tool (an argument of which I have yet to effectively persuade my Baby Boomer parents).
I have been playing with Twitter since about 2008, getting a feel for how it works, learning the best ways to interact with both the site and its other members, experimenting with managing multiple accounts with services like HootSuite and Tweetdeck, and – perhaps most importantly – learning how to say what I want to say in 140 characters or less. This did not come naturally for me. I spent my undergraduate years writing history papers; brevity has rarely been the essence of my written communication style.
Twitter has taught me how to be more concise. Oddly enough, this actually helped my papers in grad school. I became better at choosing more articulate vocabulary terms so I had to explain myself less. It has also improved my email efficiency; since I can make my point with fewer words, I get through more emails in less time.
Additionally, I network better with Twitter. As a tool for public communication, there is less group compartmentalization to manage, and it is easier to make new connections (both discovering and being discovered). (Also, Twitter will not teach you to stop over-using parentheses. Clearly.)
One of the things I have enjoyed most about Twitter, though, is having a tool that lets me keep up with all of the things the people and agencies I follow are doing. I love knowing about new program implementations, getting quick links to new research data, and participating in brainstorming and crowd sourcing. Yes, I DO want to help name the new cheetah cubs at the National Zoo, and thanks, @NationalZoo, for asking!