It really all began with the Arab Spring in 2010. Social media played a huge role in that entire affair. In fact, the media coined the term ‘Twitter Revolutions‘ in an effort to define what the world was seeing. In the past, media provided a filter. If something was on the front page of the evening news, it was considered important. If it was buried deeper in the paper, or later in the newcast, it could often be disregarded as unnecessary.
Twitter changed that.
Today, anyone can broadcast—whether it’s a distraught mother, a crusading journalist, or an angry Canadian complaining about #firstworldproblems. Nobody needs to ask for permission to write about something, even in a corrupt, authoritarian country. The government can no longer control the media in any part of the world that can connect to the Internet. Twitter has released those restrictions. With a simple #symbol, everything can be shared.
That’s why social media is playing an increasing role in shaping events. A small group of passionate people can influence and form entire movements. Of course, some governments have tried to control the spread of information by controlling Twitter, like they would a paper or a news channel.
The Turkish Prime Minister for example, tried to block his country’s access to Twitter when he didn’t like what was being posted about him and his government. Days later the country’s highest court ruled that this ban was illegal and ordered the government to bring it back.
UPDATE: The YouTube ban in Turkey was finally lifted today, June 4.
Curious as to how many people are actually using Twitter? Check out this graphic from the Twitter website.
WHAT IS TWITTER?
One of the reigning Kings of Social Media, Twitter has flapped in and picked up an impressive flock of followers. Founded in 2006, it started out as a text messaging service that allowed users to communicate with a small group with short and sweet messages. The main charm of Twitter is that it is real time. Information is shared immediately and can be used on almost any device to share news, pictures and real time conversations.
HOW TWITTER HAS CHANGE THE WORLD
There are many ways this new information exchange has affected the world around us. Listed below are a few of the most singificant ones.
1. Made information move in real time
Twitter happens in real time. As a result, news spreads faster than ever. This quick exchange of information has been invaluable in citizen uprisings, like the Arab spring or for fundraising efforts during the disaster in the Philippines last year.
2. Created ‘Twitter Celebrities’ Twitter’s list of 100 most popular accounts is dominated almost entirely by celebrities and traditional media outlets. But not far below are hundreds of bloggers, podcasters and online journalists who have found a bigger audience on Twitter than they probably would have without it. When a single tweet puts your thoughts in front of hundreds of thousands of people, you’re able to help set the agenda in your community. 3. Journalism Twitter has redefined what ‘breaking news’ is. It has shot journalism from daily updates, to the real time and instant. A story can be posted seconds after it has happened in 140 characters. Actually, a news brief is about the same length as your average tweet! The structure of Twitter is not that different from the most basic forms of journalism. Twitter has become the breaking news platform for journalism, and for journalists to both share and receive information. Twitter also makes many of its users citizen journalists. Anyone with a Twitter account who is in the right place at the right time can become a journalist. That’s exactly what happened in January 2009 when the US Airways flight crashed in the Hudson River off New York City. The picture was taken by a tourist named Janis Krums. He snapped the photo with his iPhone, then uploaded it to Twitter later that day with the following caption:
“There’s a plane in the Hudson. I’m on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy.”
That picture went viral! It was the first time a tweeted picture made the jump from Twitter, to the front pages of newspapers and broadcasts around the world.
4. The Twitter revolutions When the Turkish Prime Minister tried to block access to Twitter in his country, Graffiti took on a new purpose. On a typical day, Turkey ranks about Number 8 in active Twitter users worldwide. That’s about 10 million active users on any given day. If Prime Minister Recept Tayyip Erogan thought he would easily silence those voices, he had another thing coming.
On the evening of the ban, graffiti began covering the walls and roads in Istanbul to tell people how to access Twitter despite the block.
There has been a lot of debate over how much of an impact Twitter and social media had had in revolutions and crises around the world, but its impact is hard to ignore. Twitter has played a huge role by helping people get images of violence out to the outside world, and into the hands of the wider public.
HOW DOES TWITTER DO THIS?
How does Twitter manage to make so many quick hits of information make sense? That’s where Hashtags and Trending come into play. A Hashtag is a number sign #. It organizes information on Twitter.
For example, if you search #GameofThrones, you’ll get a list of tweets related to the TV show. What you won’t get are tweets that say I love board games because games isn’t preceded by the hash tag. Twitter uses those Hashtags to determine what its users are talking about. The topics that are being most talked about, are considered to be trending.
You can find lists of what is trending in your area, or world wide right off of the Twitter home page.
WHAT IS TRENDING NOW
The following are just a few popular trends that have been circulating on Twitter over the last few weeks. There are of course many more! Feel free to add any extras in the comments below.
The suspected misogynist motives behind Elliot Rodgers killings in Isla Vista a week and a half ago is bringing a Twitter hashtag movement to the forefront.
“I don’t know why you girls have never been attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it. … You throw yourselves at all these obnoxious men, instead of me, the supreme gentleman.” (Via YouTube / Elliot Rodger)
Due to the fact that Rodger seems to categorize all women under one label in his rant, the hashtag #YesAllWomen was born. It touches on issues like harassment and gender relations.
“Every woman I know has been taught to not leave her drink unattended or we could be drugged and raped. #YesAllWomen” (Via Twitter / @film114)
Many of the tweets tell jaw-dropping stories of abuse, harassment and more. The #YesAllWomen campaign is trying to show the abuse and harrassment that many women in the west deal with on a daily basis. This, in turn gave rise to the #NotAllMen trend on twitter.
“#NotAllMen are the same but #YesAllWomen live in fear of not knowing the difference between a genuinely nice guy and a potential attacker.” (Via Twitter / @JadeScanlon)
It’s a heavy topic to try and address in 140 characters, but it’s gained a lot of attention. It sat near the top of Twitter’s trending topics over the weekend.
In part due to pressure from Twitter and the public, The United States is finally deployed a 200-person military and law enforcement delegation to Nigeria to help in the search, and in the meantime, people all over the world are speaking out through the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. You can see (and upload your own!) photos on this Tumblr set up by Amnesty International, and check out some of the big names showing their support.