After the recent Super Bowl game, Twitter reported that during the final three minutes of the game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots, an average of 10,000 tweets were sent every second.
This sheer volume of tweets is almost unimaginable. My first thought was that all of these tweets were going into the ether at a purely indigestible rate. What’s the point, I thought? This led me begin thinking about the social value of Twitter. Thus, my musings.
Twitter as Social Media
Obviously, Twitter is now well-established as social media. Just think, Twitter and Facebook have been credited with greatly facilitating the so-called Arab Spring. This is truly a world-changing event — social media being the catalyst for the fall of dictatorships! But does this mean that you should be spending an inordinate amount of time on Twitter? Not necessarily.
In some cases, such as the recent death of Whitney Houston, Twitter can beat television and mainstream news sites to the punch. In fact, it did this 45 minutes before the Associated Press reported her death. Therefore, one might think that the best place for up-to-date news would be Twitter. Not so fast!
A recent article by Pete Cashmore appeared on CNN stating that “There’s reason to believe that Twitter and Facebook users — in their new roles as the distributors of news on the Web — are becoming cautious about sharing news with their friends without personally verifying it. As Facebook user Nuno Valente said of the news: ‘Twitter was faster than “traditional” press in regard to the Whitney Houston death but usually cries wolf just for fun.'”
My take on the effectiveness of a media such as Twitter is that it should be regarded as being a part of the grand scheme of news and is not — just as the traditional news media is sometimes not — always accurate.
Twitter as the Pulse of the World
One thing I believe for sure is that social media sites such as Twitter are so outrageously ubiquitous and lightning fast that they have become, of sorts, the pulse of the world. Any country that allows social media to freely publish realizes that its citizens are a second away from communicating on a group basis, uncensored and unregulated. This is a great thing in a democracy, but it can be a bane for countries like China and North Korea.
Such totalitarian countries don’t want their citizens communicating in essentially the same fashion that a family would communicate at a meal — transparently and instantly. With a free flow of information, the emperor truly has no clothes and is totally visible to the people. Thus, we have a wonderfully good side of the social media and Twitter. Before such social phenomena, an aristocracy could flourish. But now that we have a “mediaocracy” (my word) that gives new meaning to instancy and can unmask the falseness of any form of government or, in some cases, any form of news.
So I think participation in the social media scene is wonderful. It can truly help the world and, in cases like the Arab Spring, save the world. But at this point, it is not for everyone.
I have been on Twitter for about half a year now (@tfdistefano). I have sent out many tweets and have also looked at a good number of tweets. Some, I must admit, are silly to me and totally meaningless. For example, I looked at a tweet where someone said that she was at Starbucks having a coffee. Who cares? I for one don’t.
However, there certainly are tweets that contain links to fine articles on every imaginable subject. There are many tweets by publishers and authors. There are also a good deal of tweets on technology, science, politics, etc.
If you discreetly choose people to follow on Twitter, a fount of information can suddenly become available to you. Additionally, you will inevitably end up “corresponding” with someone you are following or someone who follows you and your tweets.
One egalitarian thing about Twitter is that you don’t have to ask someone to be your friend, as you have to do on Facebook or, in a different sense, on Linkedin. You merely click the “follow” link and you are following that person. That person can in turn choose to follow you or not to follow you. It doesn’t matter. I have many followers who I am in not in turn following. Some are from countries whose languages I don’t speak. Therefore, following what they tweet would be futile for me.
Additionally, Twitter uses the hash mark (#) as a way to direct your tweets to subsets of people who share an interest with you. For example, when you send a tweet and you want investors to read it, you merely have to hash-mark certain keywords like, #investing, #startups, #ipos, #stock market. This will automatically send your tweets to subsets of people who might have an interest in what you have tweeted.
My personal view of Twitter is that I will use it discreetly and on a limited basis. I will also careful choose people to follow, thus eliminating viewing tweets that would be uninteresting to me, or just plain silly.
Twitter Has Changed How We View the World
Yes, social media like Twitter have not only changed how we view the world, but have also changed the world itself — witness the so-called Arab Spring. Twitter has truly brought a heretofore-unavailable immediacy and instancy to the world. It has become a pulse of the world of sorts, always listening and always talking. And the people listening and talking are we.
Many times we don’t have that much to say. But when we tweet en masse, our words are powerful, urgent and can change the world.