If you’re like me, you are (or were) skeptical of Twitter.  It’s confusing. There’s weird character usage like “@” and “#” and “hashtags” and “retweets”, all of which only made me more reluctant to start using Twitter.  Not to mention, celebrities and media have cemented the reluctance of would-be users who’ve come to see it as a public diary that chronicles nothing but the most superficial, day-to-day happenings that we all experience.

So I’m not exactly sure why I decided to create my own Twitter account. Nevertheless, I’ve put together an apology of sorts, in defense of Twitter.  Have no fear, my wary friends!  You don’t have to tell the world what pair of undies you’re wearing today to fully personalize and take advantage of Twitter.

1. Follow your interests and create your own personal newspaper

Once I got Twitter, I wasn’t really sure what to do.  I knew I didn’t want to tweet what I ate for breakfast so I decided to start searching for things that interested me.  Now I have a timeline full of sports updates, higher ed. topics, and news from my current favorite bands.  It’s a nice, easy way for me to stay engaged in things I like – kind of like having my own personal newspaper.

2. Follow your college or university

Many colleges and universities are turning to Twitter to keep students in the know on campus activities and events in real-time.  Whether there’s an emergency closing, a prominent guest speaker or a barbeque on the quad, follow your university’s Twitter to stay up to date on all the latest campus buzz.

3. Follow locally

I live in DC and while our Metro is very convenient, someone didn’t create a Twitter account called “unsuckdcmetro” for no reason.  Following locally allows me to keep track of train malfunctions as they happen so I can proactively re-route my trip home (if you live in DC, you know how important this is).  I also get updates about local lunch discounts near my work.  I even got to join a massive, spur-of-the-moment snowball fight right in Dupont Circle just because it was trending in my area!  Which brings me to my next point…

4. Trending Topics

An easy way to follow locally is to follow “trending topics” in your geographic area.  Hootsuite and TweetDeck (social media dashboards) make it really easy to follow the most talked about topics in your area.  These can be anything from discounts and deals, breaking news stories or silly, superficial topics, but will always be denoted by a “#” sign or “hashtag.”  As I write this, Washington, DC is currently trending #georgemason, #brucepearl and #villanova. NCAA basketball anyone?

5. Retweet!

Even if you don’t want to tweet that your shower caddy just broke or that you’re walking barefoot to the front desk to collect your mail, don’t hesitate to “retweet”!  Whether you want to comment on something someone else has said or simply want to re-blast an article or news update that you found interesting, retweeting is an easy way to get involved with the conversation without the hassle of having to actually “tweet.”  Plus, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when someone retweets you back.  It’s like getting poked on Facebook, but waaaaay cooler.

So don’t let all the celebrity-tweet gossip deter you from starting up your own account; no matter what your interests are, Twitter can help you capitalize on them in unique ways without having to (fully) admit that you’ve sold your soul to yet another social media platform.  Yes, I’m sure many of you’ve refreshed your Facebook status at least once while reading this article.