So here you are, espousing your thoughts and a few work tips on Twitter when suddenly you receive an unexpected email. Your mother is now following you. Your mother is now reading your notes. Worse yet? She’s providing her advice. On your lunch diet.
As technologies continue to make it easier to connect with friends and family online, families are turning more and more often to the distribution communication platform that Twitter and Facebook Status Updates provide. Combining Twitter with other social applications (like Facebook) serves to strengthen and magnify the communication capabilities of families on the Internet to an even greater degree.
So why connect with your family on social network platforms?. What is driving this increasing trend?
Sharing family successes has long been a part of Twitter – tweeting while at a son’s baseball game or a daughter’s dance recital has provided Twitter users a way to share their family pride with family members and strangers alike. New Twitter tools, like whrrl, enable instant photo sharing. Instead of providing a link to a photo or an album, you can provide the entire multimedia experience in a much easier fashion. This only serves to enhance the wildly popular link-sharing capabilities of Twitter.
Even the military recognizes the power of the online family and now provides significant support for families on Twitter in the form of educational feeds (usually issued by a government group), support groups for overseas personnel and injured veterans, general family support, and just about anything one can think of. In short, individuals and groups are taking the lead on organizing Twitter. In the absence of tools provided by Twitter, families are using Facebook and other social media networks to more easily integrate Twitter updates into their families.
Perhaps the most common and familiar use of Twitter and the family involves the unfortunate aspects of tragedies and disasters. Disasters can take a number of forms ranging from earthquakes and wildfires to highway accidents and home fires. It is fairly clear, just by looking at the news, that Twitter is a now a major factor in keeping families in the loop as to the current state of a given disaster. Whether a family needs general news on a situation or specific feedback from a family member in jeopardy, Twitter maintains the variety of communication channels (Web, IM, SMS, etc.) necessary to significantly increase the chances of messages getting out in a timely manner.
Personal tragedies also continue to shape the evolution of the Twitter communication medium. Most of us seen some sort of cry for help from a family member, a friend, or “friend of a friend” . We have seen this in email, blogs, whole Web sites, and now Twitter. One of the best uses of Twitter we have seen is a hospital using Twitter to inform families on the status and results of an operation.
When communicating with family on Twitter (and other public-facing social sites), privacy concerns should be a strong consideration when discussing personal family issues . Families have a tendency to talk casually with each other online, which too can have negative results such as Criminals have begun to monitor sites like Facebook and Twitter in order to determine when families are on vacation, which is an ideal time to commit robbery. The usual warnings to putting private and family-related information on the Web apply. Just as you wouldn’t put flyers outside your home when you go on vacation, think twice about posting your vacation plans, until after you get home.
The growth in family uses of social media will only continue to grow as more and more tools for information sharing develop. But as this trend continues to soar, so do the dangers. By being careful with what you share online (no personal or financial information, no specific travel dates, no home address), you should be able to enjoy sharing your news online safely.