If you haven’t heard of Twitter by now it’s likely that you get the bulk of your information via Morse Code and the computer is a foreign object to you. In March, the social media juggernaut drew 14 million people, and when Oprah delivered her first tweet a few weeks back, “Twitter” was added to the vocabulary of millions more. Still, I get the feeling that there are a lot of people that only know of Twitter, but couldn’t explain it without giving that “I’m Ron Burgandy?” sense of uncertainty. When I asked my mom if she uses Twitter, her response was, “yeah, I signed up for it”. I explained to her that owning running shoes doesn’t make you a runner [in her defense, she is extremely web savvy for her…um…demographic (that’s the PC way of saying age)]. While I’m certainly no Mark Zuckerberg myself, I do spend waste enough time on social media sites to have a decent grasp of what Twitter is all about.
In a nutshell, Twitter is a collaboration of brief, real-time message feeds from members of the site. The goal is to keep messages concise, interesting, and informative. Expressing a complete thought in 140 characters or less is no easy task. In fact, the previous two sentences are one character too long to be an acceptable tweet.
Those of you who follow certain celebrities will probably raise an eyebrow to the “interesting and informative” goals mentioned above. Last week, a post from tweetaholic Shaquille O’Neal read, “Breakfast Egg white omelette Lunch Cobb salad”. For those who are opposed to the site, this is their general perception of what happens on Twitter.
I’d be both a liar and a hypocrite if I said I didn’t include my own mundane updates from time to time. But that’s what Twitter is – a giant conversation. Only this conversation compiles monologues and dialogues, calls and responses, and information building and sharing. The fact that Shaq is eating a healthy breakfast provides no immediate value to anyone (except for maybe the Diesel himself). The beauty of Twitter is derived from the real-time limitless flow of information.
Ok, so what?
The Mumbai terrorist attacks last November may very well mark the day that Twitter was officially born. Twitter, not CNN or The BBC, was the first source of media to break the story. Eye witness reports including names of those who had been killed or injured as well as hospital locations in need of blood donations were pouring in at the rate of over 900 Tweets per minute. Not only will this day go down as one of the most ruthless terrorist attacks in history, but it may also mark the beginning of a new era of information transmission. To take it a step further, Twitter brings us closer than we’ve ever been to a sense of information omnipresence.
This wasn’t the last instance of Twitter beating CNN to the punch of leaking a story (not to keep targeting the Cable News Network, but they are the standard for breaking news). When US Airways Flight 1549 had to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River, a passenger on one of the rescue ferries had the information out into the public via Twitter almost immediately. When fires were ravaging Australia earlier this year, authorities used Twitter as their source to alert the masses.
Now that Oprah is officially a Twitterer, it’s fair to assume this sense of omnipresence will be attainable in the near future. The idea may seem implausible at first, but when you consider the fact that She made a celebrity out of Dr. Phil, almost single handedly got Barack Obama elected president, and made the principles of Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth mainstream in an extremely Christian nation, you have to start to believe…
Feel free to join in on my conversation with the world.
You’ll be the first to know what’s for lunch.