Why Twitter? It's the fastest way to get instant news.

At 4AM last night my husband and I woke up to the room shaking. "What was that?" I asked, like he might know, since he was up 1 second before me. My first thought, which I embarrassingly voiced out loud: "Was it the dogs?"

"Shaking the house?" he asked, and shook his head. "Where should I look to find out what it was?"

"Google it," I replied. How very 2000’s of me. (As a side note, "Google" was added as an official verb in the Oxford English Dictionary June 15, 2006. Doesn’t it seem like we’ve been using that term for decades, though?)

Anyhow, my husband checked the TV, to no avail. He thought only a second about Googling it, but then remembered his best available resource: if anyone knew what was happening, it would be the Twitterverse.

He searched Twitter for "Elgin," and found endless real-time posts of other Twitterers who woke up to what appeared to be an earthquake. Within 10 minutes, "earthquake" was trending on Twitter and he discovered through various posts that the shaking house was indeed an earthquake around 4 magnitude centered near Dekalb, IL, about 15 miles away.

You don’t need me to tell you that citizen journalism is one of the most important ways Twitter has changed the way we experience news. What surprises me, and surely surprises those who aren’t connected to Twitter yet, is the extreme speed with which news is reported on Twitter. The first news of the plane landing in the Hudson last year came from a picture uploaded on Twitter. This immediacy applies to Facebook as well. In fact, I read an article yesterday about unfortunate 20-year-old twins that found out about their 17-year-old brother’s death in a car accident by logging into Facebook and seeing status updates wishing their brother to rest in peace. Epic fail from the police department on that one–no excuses. But for some news it’s quite impossible to keep up with the pace of Twitter and Facebook.

So Twitter news reporting is much faster, and can often be more accurate than the actual news conglomerates. In fact, the earthquake turned out to be centered much closer to Elgin (rather than Dekalb), which my husband may have been able to surmise from the overwhelming number of people from Elgin reporting the quake on Twitter.

Because of the ability to self-report accurate news, it’s no wonder so many celebrities have turned to Twitter; move over tabloids! They are finally able to report their own news. @KimKardashian recently put to rest a rumor that she was participating in a cookie diet, saying "Not true! I would never do this unhealthy diet! I do QuickTrim!" (She was later sued for defamation by the diet doctor over the tweet, which is another story altogether!)

So what does all this mean for the future of how we get our information? Well, for one, more is certain to change. Last spring we assisted in the first ever live-tweeted surgery in Illinois. One unexpected benefit was the family’s ability to follow the process as it happened, rather than waiting for the doctor’s updates. Perhaps this instant reporting will morph into a common offering at hospitals?

At the very least, we certainly can expect to find our news as it happens. And of course, the next time my husband asks me where to look up information about something that just happened, my automatic response will be, "Twitter it." And maybe "Twitter," meaning to search for news, will be the next dictionary addition. (Twitter as a verb meaning "to search on Twitter" has not yet been added to the Collins English Dictionary, but it has been added meaning "to write short messages on the Twitter website." Other Twitter words, like "Twitterati" and "Twitterverse" also made it in 2009.)

Any others out there find out about the quake on Twitter? And any other changes you think we can expect in the future?