By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
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By Craig Malisow
Now he has nearly 2,200 people following his exploits visiting taco trucks in the Houston area, and occasionally blasting a few rounds off at his favorite local gun ranges.
In a real sense, all Twitter users have become their own paparazzi, tweeting pics of their meals or giving a play-by-play on their nightlife exploits. Micro-celebrities abound.
With more users, people began to feel unencumbered and privacy barriers were thrown aside. People tweeted what they were eating, when they were sleeping, what media they were following and how they felt about each in sometimes snarky or loving detail.
Gus Tello (@gtello) is a Houston-based site engineer for the Gimmal Group, a Web consulting firm. Along with his wife Melanie (@mctello), they make up one of Houston's most influential Twitter teams. On Twitter since early 2008, Gus Tello's account lay dormant in a protected setting for months. He thought of it more as an "ego vehicle" for people who wanted somewhere to gloat endlessly about what they were doing, buying, or eating.
Tello had his "aha" moment with the site during an online conversation about the ABC show Lost.
"Before I wasn't so sure how to make a unique mark with it, but having this dialog showed me that it doesn't have to be a tedious exposition of where you are and what you are doing," Tello says. "I saw that it could help you join a dialog much bigger than your circle of friends.
"And it could be about anything, not just a TV show. It could be about news, Houston, art, breakfast cereal, anything."
Tello says that there are now people whose sole Twitter modus operandi is to be "news carriers," not engagers, constantly posting headlines and links of breaking events for whoever is following them. Before social networking came into being, first-person accounts of natural disasters and landmark events from the general population were relegated to harried reports on the local news and calls into radio stations. Now anyone can report on the human condition at large through an endless manner of technological avenues.
This new frontier of journalism has now arguably spilled over into the "sixth estate" of media. The "fourth estate" encompassed the first wave of modern newspapers, terrestrial radio and television in the 20th century, and online media and Web blogs were the "fifth estate" by the late '90s.
In the sixth estate of Twitter and Facebook media, there is little or no control of the information being discussed and everyone is a reporter.
New applications such as Foursquare and Gowalla let users tweet their location, including their exact address. It's good for telling friends and tracking, say, a vacation, to keep people back home informed, but the minutiae can become overwhelming for others who don't always want to know that someone has just gotten home or that he is eating at a fancy restaurant.
A bigger complication includes the risk of people stalking one another. Men and women can be followed by angry exes or uninvited suitors, or someone's home can be burglarized. After all, the tweeter has just told everyone they are at Best Buy picking up a Blu-ray player, right?
And then there are the romantic implications of Twitter, where people can meet and hook up, with varying results.
Some courtships end up being mere booty calls, while others blossom into full-on, sickeningly perfect matches that make most single people gag.
The twentysomething couple refer to themselves as "The Smolls," melding their last names for Twitter brevity. They met after Smith made a crack about the teen-horror movie Jennifer's Body that Koller saw on a friend's stream. Love bloomed that weekend when a curious Koller came to visit Smith at his job that Sunday night.
"It's funny, now that they've heard how we met, more and more of my friends are asking for help getting on Twitter," Koller says. "My best friends were amazed that there are actually real, live, normal people on there."
Koller has confidence in Smith that if their relationship moves to the next level, it will be handled in person, not by tweeting.
"As far as I know, there will be a traditional, live proposal," she says.
An accomplished tweeter can produce a message that goes out to hundreds or thousands in just seconds. This is, of course, both blessing and curse.
Former Major League pitcher Mike Bacsik (@MikeBacsik) found out last month that not everyone can sense sarcasm through a tweet. The radio personality for KTCK-AM The Ticket, a Dallas sports talk station, made a particularly racially charged remark on his Twitter profile during a heated playoff game, factiously congratulating "all the dirty Mexicans in San Antonio" for the Spurs beating the Dallas Mavericks.
Judging from the posts he was updating with right before his racial outburst, Bacsik had been drinking while watching the game. Just a few moments before the tweet in question, he had threatened to quit The Ticket and blow up the NBA head offices, and then wondered aloud about the size of NBA commissioner David Stern's "cornhole." The comment about Hispanics resulted in a firestorm of controversy in Dallas and led The Ticket to fire Bacsik. Lately, the former journeyman hurler has been extremely penitent on Twitter.