Twitter gives you two ‘Superhero Powers’: the power to be a fly on the wall and listen to people’s conversations, undetected. And the power to hear what people are thinking. There are many stories of people who have found meaningful relationships on Twitter. They feel they are in a community that is supportive of their needs. They actively promote the interests of the community and they bring value by supplying useful information. Twitter is called ‘micro-blogging’, but it is actually different from a regular blog. In a regular blog you have the chance to go deep into a subject. Twitter is more suited to address a wide range of subjects.
In Twitter you are asked a very simple question: ‘What are you doing?” Actually, this is something your parents would ask, or your teacher or a policeman or another figure with some authority. It doesn’t look like the kind of question you would ask your friends, but as it turns out this simple question provokes a lot of discussion. Simply telling the world what you’re doing may seem trivial, but if you’re being arrested and brought to jail, tweeting that fact could bring on a massive response. Like an American student found out when he was jailed in Egypt – his Twitter messages allowed people to get in touch with the proper authorities and free him! Some people are getting quite creative with Twitter. For instance when you say the words ‘bad luck’ in a tweet, a user called @a_dark_cloud will start to follow you.
Until early 2009 Twitter was relatively unknown. A number of events triggered Twitter’s popularity and in the first half of 2009 Twitter exploded. When that plane landed in the Hudson River in New York some guy took a picture of it and tweeted it. That was the first the world learned of the accident and it proved Twitter’s value for up-to-the-minute news reporting. This was really the first act of ‘Citizen Journalism’ that got widespread attention. Today it is clear that everybody can be a journalist. Everybody that has a phone with a camera in his pocket and happens to be at the site of a world news event can now report it to the regular news media. All the big networks and most notably CNN, ESPN and Fox have picked up Twitter as a way to interact with the public during live shows.
When Oprah Winfrey started tweeting at her show, millions of people, mostly women, started to follow her example. When you look at the growth of Twitter pre-Oprah and post-Oprah you will see a remarkable difference. Oprah is now one of the most popular people on Twitter, a position she shares with a number of other tweaking celebrities like Ashton Kushner, Britney Spears, Ellen DeGeneres and even the President. They all have over 2 million followers!
It is amazing to see how many people are following these celebrities. Apparently they get a kick out of tweeting something interesting to a celeb and getting a tweet back. There is nothing more ‘cool’ than that – it is like getting a celebrity’s signature. The attraction that celebrities apparently have on Twitter is one of the most amazing features of this new social networking platform.
When the elections in Iran in June 2009 showed a result that many people in Iran believed was manipulated, riots broke out in the streets where the police was beating up protesters. The regular news media were kept far away from these protests come up but many protesters who were right in the middle of the riots started tweeting and sending photos and videos into the world. This was the only evidence of what was going on in Teheran and other cities in Iran. That weekend Twitter had scheduled an hour for maintenance so it was planning to shut down for a while. On the request of many people including the State Department Twitter decided to postpone the maintenance, so the people of Iran could continue their reports.
This is interesting. Now apparently Twitter is crucial for the world. The fact that many people were asking for Twitter not to shut down is amazing too. Most people are not concerned with what happens on the other side of the world. They are concerned with what happens in their neighborhood and what affects them only. It appears that Twitter is changing that. Many tweople changed their location in Twitter to Teheran, Iran in support of the people in Iran who were tweeting while the government there was trying to shut them down. Changing their location would create hundreds of thousands of people that apparently use Twitter from Iran and would make it all the more difficult for the Iranian Secret Service to find them. In support of the protesters millions of Twitterers also colored their profile picture on Twitter to green. The massive response to this initiative might be a sign that the mentality of the global population is changing towards a keener interest in what goes on in the world, rather than just the neighborhood. It looks like Twitter is a positive influence here.
An interesting phenomenon is ‘live tweeting’ during an event or a TV show. This is becoming the trend at conferences, where Tweeting (and thereby the use of the mobile phone although be it in ‘silent’ mode) is encouraged. On big screens, the tweets from the audience are displayed, which is easy to do as long as everyone uses a certain “hashtag”. Sometimes you see that moderators of panels are picking up tweets from the live audience. Especially on the news TV channels this is happening often. This has contributed greatly to the popularity of Twitter.