Mary Jo Podgurski

Column Mary Jo Podgurski

Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski is the founder and director of the Washington Health System Teen Outreach. She responds to 68 questions from young people daily and has written 'Ask Mary Jo' since 2005.

Ins and outs of Twitter

Ins and outs of Twitter

August 6, 2014

Q.Thank you for your answer to my Facebook question. I’m very happy to tell you that I followed the directions you gave me and am now on Facebook! Even better, my grandchildren think it’s great! Now I’m waiting to learn about Twitter. I appreciate the confidence, too. I guess 80 is pretty young!

Grandma of teens

Mary Jo’s response: I’m thrilled. I also appreciate your feedback. Congratulations on your success.

Twitter isn’t difficult. When I met with our peer educators this week, though, they warned me to stay away from another social media site called Tumblr. I have no idea why, but I’m going to heed their advice.

I find that I use Twitter sporadically but really enjoy it when I do. When preparing for a conference or fundraiser, when hoping to connect with national colleagues, when I have a message I want to quickly send to friends/colleagues, when I want to invite people to engage in longer conversations, or when responding to teens, I find Twitter very useful. I also use Twitter to quickly stay current with what’s happening in the world.

Some of the young people I know “Tweet” constantly; others don’t even have a Twitter account. Teens are like adults – some liberal, some conservative, some passionate about social media, some disinterested in online connections. Your grandchildren may love it or avoid it. I suggest asking them after you sign up and prove once again that you’re a “with it” grandma.

Let’s start with a basic explanation. Twitter is a free online social networking service. A person using Twitter can send and receive tweets. What is a Tweet? Tweets are short posts (messages) of up to 140 characters. A Tweet can contain pictures, text and even videos. Millions of Tweets are shared in real time every day.

Some people send a number of Tweets daily or even hourly. I enjoy using Twitter to pick up information. To me, it’s like having a newspaper focusing on the topics I choose; I can easily check my Twitter feed and discover new facts. Twitter is like a constantly flowing river – it’s up to you when you take a dip.

To begin using Twitter, create your own profile:

1. Go to Twitter ( to get started.

2. Set up an account. You’ll enter your name, email and a password.

3. Click “Sign Up.”

4. You’ll be taken to a second screen to select a user name. Select a name people will recognize. My username is DrMaryJoPod.

5. Click on the “Create My Account” button. You’re now part of the Twitter community. Twitter will help you get started and suggest how to find friends to “follow.” When you follow someone, you see their Tweets – they see yours if they follow you back.

Twitter has its own vocabulary. Here are some words (from the Twitter website – you may find useful:

Reply: Hitting the small arrow at the top of your Twitter page will allow you to join a Twitter conversation. You can comment on a Tweet. Remember, your post will be limited to 140 characters. Twitter conveniently reminds you how many characters remain as you type. Twitter teaches you to be concise.

Retweet: Clicking on the two arrow symbol allows you to share a Tweet someone you follow posts with your followers.

Favorite: Hitting the star symbol allows you to let an author know you liked a Tweet. You may also comment on the Tweet before hitting Favorite.

Hashtag: The pound symbol (#) starts a hashtag that assigns a topic to a Tweet. If you click on a hashtag, you see Tweets related to that topic.

Compose: You may write your own Tweets by clicking on the feathered pen symbol on your screen. Twitter will help you with your first Tweet.

Me: Your profile, your followers, the people following you and your recent posts are all displayed when you click on the “Me” button.

If you want to connect others to your Tweet, you simply add the symbol @ before their names. For example, you might write a Tweet: “This is my first Tweet and I’m just figuring this out @DrMaryJoPod.” I’ll receive notice of your Tweet and can reply, retweet it or favorite it.

You can link Tweets to your email to notify you when activity is happening on your account. If you use a smartphone, your notifications can include letting you know when Tweets are received on your mobile phone, but you don’t need to have a phone to Tweet.

Twitter can help you stay connected with friends and family. With Twitter you can let your followers know what’s happening in your life; you can also discover what’s happening in their lives. Twitter is fast, easy and convenient. A recent study showed that 46 percent of senior citizens (over 65) were using social media, but only 6 percent were on Twitter. You’re an innovative individual – this is your chance to show your grandchildren how progressive you are. You can be part of a new senior trend. If you need convincing, check out for support.

Good luck!

Have a question? Connect with Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski at



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