My Twitter awakening
Last week I was tweeting for @ImaginationLabs and I realised something really important about this often-misunderstood form of communication: It’s not about individual tweets. It’s about how we access our knowledge - through sharing, communicating and networking.
All too often we hear of scandals associated with the media: phone tapping, corruption, controversial partnerships. Throughout history we’ve known that the media can be biased, exaggerated, often incorrect, but we have always struggled to challenge their authority and question their knowledge.
These days it has at last become acceptable, even expected of us, to question the information we are fed, and even more so, to question its sources- and we have found the perfect outlet to do so.
Twitter is an open forum, available 24:7, used by the masses, run by the masses. You can follow news sites, magazines, organisations and celebrities to access stories. However, if you use the #hashtag symbol, you can also browse individual conversations about these stories as they happen.
Twitter is the most democratic form of broadcasting of news and information that has ever existed. If the public don’t agree with the way something has been portrayed in the media, they will quickly come together to express just this.
Take for example the riots last summer. The media broadcasted apocalyptic scenes of thuggish youths burning down our cities, causing widespread panic around the world, and while I don’t think it’s a good thing that Twitter helped with the organisation of these events, it was great to see how the website became the platform from which Riot Clean Up was launched.
The press may then have jumped on the movement but the majority of the organisation was done from a single Twitter account and carried out before mainstream coverage got involved.
This summer something really exciting is going to happen. The London 2012 games will be the first ever Olympics to actually happen on Twitter. During the last Games in Beijing four years ago, the site was processing about 27 tweets per second and access from the host country was restricted.
Today, use has leapt to a near-incomprehensible 27,000 per second. London 2012 is going to turn in to an international, live-streamed festival.
I can’t wait to hear about all the winners, the losers, the controversies, the overnight sensations, the parties and all other associated London Festival events. You can count on one thing: I’ll be reading about them on blogs, in trending conversations and at recommended links, via Twitter.
What struck me when I was tweeting for Imagination Labs was that while our tweets may often seem banal, random and unrelated at the time, thanks to the use of #hashtags, @mentions and RT:retweets, they form part of a large network of related information that can help build an archive of public opinion, one that didn't exist before; one that will now exist online forever.
The only way to show the media how the people really respond to the events of today is to get involved and start following.