Keep in mind, while some of these things are true facts, a lot of this is just my subjective experience with the site. My policy is generally to not tell people what to do or say with their lives, but there's gonna be a lot of judgment here, so read with a few grains of salt.
What is Twitter? The definition on Wikipedia is "an online social networking service and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read text-based messages of up to 140 characters, known as 'tweets'." Obviously, that's really cut and dry. The way I hear most people describe it is "It's like Facebook, but only status updates." That is a terrible definition.
Twitter is really what you make of it. To me, it is a social media website that is heavily focused on the news. If you only follow friends who tweet rarely, it's going to be a dead website. If you only follow comedians (like @robdelaney, @mindykaling, @meganamram, @kristenschaaled), it'll be just a bunch of short jokes. If you only follow news sites (like @BreakingNews, @AP, @BBCBreaking, @nytimes), it'll be a way to stay up on the news. You can follow whoever or whatever you like! I suggest a mix of people to follow, but obviously it's up to you.
What are the features/things to know?
- Hashtags: A word that is preceded by a pound sign (#). You can use a hashtag to describe a common topic of interest (e.g. "I really love this #vegan cheesecake" or "Trying a new medicine soon. Any tips? #Crohns"), because people can search for hashtags (if you click on a hashtag, you'll see lots of other tweets that have been hashtagged with the same word). You can also use a hashtag as a joke (especially as the punchline). Such as, "My husband is cooking dinner for me. #misandry" or "I'm eating cookies and ice cream for dinner. #adulthood." You can't put any punctuation in hashtags, so if you want to include more than one word in a hashtag, just don't use punctuation. For example, "This is an example of a tweet. #ImReallyBoringRightNow" Hashtags are often used to live tweet events. Like during the Superbowl, you could tweet something with the hashtag #SB49 or #BeyonceBowl, depending on what you were into.
- Retweets: If you agree with a tweet, or think it's funny, or just want other people to see it, you can retweet it. There's a button on the bottom of a tweet that says "Retweet." Click that. Done. RT before a tweet means retweet, MT before a tweet means Modified Tweet (meaning you changed or shortened it for clarity or space). Don't copy and paste an RT unless you're 800 years old, OR if you want to add a comment to the beginning of it. Such as: "@Fish_nr: Thanks, Obama. RT @Mowgli3 There's only decaf coffee here!!!" LITTLE KNOWN TWITTER FACT: If you like someone's tweets but think they RT too often, you can go to their profile and click the little person symbol next to "following" and click "Turn off retweets."
- The "@" symbol: The @ symbol indicates who you are talking to. If you want to say something to Joe Biden, find his twitter handle (@JoeBiden) and tweet at him. Like "@JoeBiden Please drop another F bomb on TV." LITTLE KNOWN TWITTER FACT: If you begin a tweet with @someone, only people who follow both you and that other person will see it on their timeline. If you want to publicly talk to someone else, either put their @name not at the beginning (for example, "I really liked this blog post by @GretaChristina") or add a period before the @ (for example, ".@GretaChristina I really liked your last blog post!")
- Favorite: On facebook, you can "like" a post. Twitter has a similar feature called the "favorite" button. Click it if you liked someone's post or just want to save it for later (since you can go to your own page and look at things you've favorited). You can see your "most favorited" tweets on FavStar.fm, and you can even pay them to let you give out trophies to people for the "best tweet of the day," but mostly this is 21st century masturbation (to steal a phrase from @Crommunist).
- Follow Friday: On Friday, it's common to recommend other people to follow. Some people do it like this: "#FF
@ologies @dELYSEious @sashapixlee @enjoyyourbunny @chaos46692 @sondosia @rebeccawatson @thelindywest @SpokesGay @boring_as_heck" Then, inevitably, throughout the day, somebody will reply to everyone on that list with a "Thank you!" or "TY!" Both of these things are obnoxious and to be avoided (even though all the people on that list are pretty cool and worth following, IMO). The way to do a Follow Friday is by either picking a category and putting 2-4 people on it (like "#FF Vegans: @CarriePoppyYES @ManiacWrangler @JamieKilstein) or doing one person at a time and mentioning why. "#FF @clairemc because she is the funniest Senator on twitter." Do a few of these. If you overload people, they won't care.
- Blocking: If someone is irritating you and you don't want to see their tweets anymore...block them! LITTLE KNOWN TWITTER FACT: Someone blocking you actually isn't taking away your free speech, it just means they don't want to see or read you.
- Report for Spam: Sometimes you'll be excited to see you got a new follower, only to find out it's @Sexxxxxy42961 who "loves to get down and dirty." As excited as you may be, this person is a fake. Report them for spam, you're doing everyone else a favor. Also, people who tweet at you with great offers like "Selling ipads for $10!!!! <link>" are also spammers. Report them as well.
(Oh, and if you're my husband and your twitter handle is @livinginfits, you should start using twitter more often, because you're hilarious and I want other people to see that. Also because I don't talk to you often enough as it is now, we need another platform for communication.)