Any Twitterers out there will be more than familiar with the pained look of a sceptical non-Twitterer. First the eyes glaze over. Then at the very mention of the words “social networking site” you get the pity stare. By the time you’ve got to “no you don’t understand, it’s nothing like MyFace” well by then you’ve completely lost them.
The irony is, anyone not yet familiar with Twitter is the one deserving of a healthy dose of pity. Twitter is the latest social networking site, and it is nothing like Facebook, but I genuinely believe Twitter could well be our saving grace.
Twitter is a way of being privy to conversations that you would otherwise never be a part of. It’s a way of getting access to the most extraordinary amount of information that you would otherwise never be able to find. Twitter is what happens when millions of people come together to create something bigger than themselves.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of a feed aggregator. Igoogle is probably the most well known example. Aggregrators allow you to create a personalised homepage so that you only have to go to one place to see all of your favourite websites. “Revolutionary technology” not so long ago. “Technology that would change our way of looking at the web”. Except of course, that it wouldn’t because we would all still be looking at the same old stuff. Whereas Twitter, well Twitter went where feed aggregators couldn’t. It opened the doors to the expansiveness of the internet. Twitter aggregates everyone’s thoughts, links, stories, snippet’s of information, breaking news all onto your homepage.
Anyone who is on Facebook and complains about the amount of narcissism on the site has fundamentally misunderstood Facebook, and themselves. In fact if you ever want to win the “Narcissist of the Week” cup, just devote one of your FB statuses to bitching about the fact that people just talk about themselves in their own status updates. WHAT DID YOU EXPECT?
Anyone who says that Facebook is becoming progressively more like Twitter has fundamentally misunderstood Twitter.
Maybe Twitter is just another craze. Just another website, just another procrastination, just another indulgence, just another distraction. Or maybe it’s something much more. Maybe Twitter will be the first step towards us, (that’s you, me, your grandmother’s neighbour… your grandmother), reclaiming our moral identities. Coming together as one society and redefining all of those boundaries that we’ve allowed to become so blurred over the last decade.
This week alone there have been two high profile examples of how Twitter has united us. Actually, allow me to rephrase, there have been two examples of how Twitter has enabled us to unite. The first was how the Twitteratti and The Guardian took on Carter-Ruck and safeguarded our right to open reporting of parliamentary proceedings. The second was of course Moir-gate.
After the Jan Moir debacle, she came out and accused those of us who complained about it as being part of a “heavily orchestrated attack”. You’ve got to feel a little for the vile little woman. To be so out of touch with reality that you can believe that the 22,000 people who sent complaints into the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) over weekend only did so because Stephen Fry and Derren Brown coerced them into it? Well to believe that you have to be really, really stupid. What Moir failed to see was that it was an outpouring from a society that has suddenly refound its voice. A society that has become so fractured to be able to come together and say no. To say that we are unwilling to accept homophobic slurs in our national press. That’s one moral boundary rebuilt. Twitter facilitated that dialogue.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ascribing Twitter.com with any inherent moral good. We’re the ones capable of defining what is right and what is wrong. Twitter just allows us to take those definitions out of our living rooms and put them squarely into the big bad world.
Why not give it a go? I reckon you’ll feel a bit lost and possibly even a bit bored during the first week. Then after that, when you start getting used to how it works, you’ll begin to see what the 18 million of us see.
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