Twitter, what exactly is it?
Short answer- Twitter is a social networking cite that facilitates communication by allowing people to say what they are doing in 140 characters or less.
Long answer- Twitter is whatever the user wants it to be! Some use Twitter as a way to keep friends updated on events and social gatherings, while others use Twitter to share life moments. For example, someone might tweet, “At the hospital, the new baby is on the way!” and then follow up later with a picture and health details about the baby. Used this way, twitter helps people feel more connected despite distance.
Companies also turn to twitter as a way to connect with customers. For example, Whole Foods uses twitter to respond to customer questions, suggestions, and concerns, and to alert customers to new products and health information. The uses for Twitter continue to evolve. Just yesterday, I received an e-mail from twitter informing me that the user “wholefoods” is now following me. It made sense for me to follow them, for the reasons I mentioned above, but why would they follow me? Isn’t that just creepy? Well, I can’t speak on Whole Foods behalf, but I can say this. Twitter provides invaluable information about what people are talking about. Businesses can track (literally) the thoughts of large groups of people and use the data to make smart business decisions about products and marketing strategies.
Using Technology to Create Social Change
Twitter and its uses (both socially and commercially) are really cool, but I am especially excited about what Twitter can do for GOOD. This past week, the world saw a new kind of protest in Moldova– a protest organized, and implemented with the help of Twitter. On Tuesday April 7th, more than 10,000 young protesters showed up to protest against Moldova’s Communist leadership and proceeded to vandalize government facilities. I don’t know, nor have the time to figure out the current state of affairs in Moldova, so I will keep this short and not focus on WHAT they protested but HOW they protested.
Using technology, Moldovans organized this huge protest primarily through text-messaging, Facebook and Twitter. By creating a searchable tag on Twitter, people around the world could learn about the protest, join the protect, or follow from afar. As the protest was happening, people on the ground uploaded firsthand accounts to share with the world. This is not the first time technology has been utilized to facilitate protests. In Kenya earlier this year, in Ukraine in 2004, and in Belarus in 2006, people turned to text messages and cell phones to send messages to large audiences.
What is so great about Twitter?
Mr. Moscovici, the man who managed the tweets in English, told the New York Times that he believed many people made an account for themselves just for the event. When asked why he thought Twitter was effective, he said, “When you follow somebody, you usually know this person, so you trust this person — it is coming from a real person, not an institution.”
Mr. Moscovici’s comment deeply resonates with me. With all of this technology advancing at such a rapid pace, I have a hard time figuring out what to believe! We really must learn to question everything. People can create and alter sound with strokes on a keyboard, digitally alter pictures beyond recognition, and edit video. This means we have the ability to create sound bytes, images, and events that never happened! When used as a source for entertainment, like the film and TV industry, this isn’t really an issue. It becomes an issue when people distort facts, and use technology to create a reality that does not exist to incite a reaction, or to prevent action.
The news, where many of us turn to find out what’s happening around the world, cannot be trusted as a sole source for information. With all the politics and economics behind every opinion, people are careful about what they say. Using certain rhetoric to describe an event influences how millions around the world perceive it and react to it. On top of that, newspapers have their own agendas. They pick and choose what they consider newsworthy and pass it along to the public. This is just one of probably many reasons why horrific situations can grow out of control before anyone takes action to stop it. During the Holocaust, for example, the death of thousands (which turned into the death of millions) could be found in the back section of American newspapers. Ah. I have to write more often, I have so much to say on this and so little time! I’ll finish up by going back to Twitter.
Where can we turn for the truth? Well, real people are good places to start! Governments can prevent journalists from entering into a country, but the people are always there. Therefore, it is crucial for connections to stay open. The internet and twitter and facebook are just more ways to connect. Of course, I am skipping over the fact that a government can censor the internet, or just plain shut it off. For now, I will leave you with two moving videos. The first, “Did you know?” mixes statistics with some techno music. I am not sure whether the purpose of the video is to inspire or to frighten, but regardless, it will make you think! Some quesitons to keep in mind as you watch: Do you believe it? Just some of it, or all of it? How does the presentation affect how you receive and process the information? And of course, “what does this all mean?”
This next one is from a Dove commercial.0