Breakfast, Revolution, and Business in 140 Characters
By Brittany Frederick
When Twitter first launched in 2006, I thought it sounded like a ridiculous idea unless you happened to be The Most Interesting Man in the World. Certainly it wouldn’t work for me. Nobody wants to know every little thing I’m doing,
I’m busy eating my words. Now, I’m one of over 200 million users worldwide who “tweet,” sending out 140-character messages to a global audience. I catch myself tweeting at least 2-3 times a day. What made me change my mind?
Quite simply, it’s the reverse of what I was taught in Communication Theory in college. It’s not about the message – it’s about the medium.
Thanks to Twitter, I can dash off a statement about anything, and it will be exposed to a massive amount of eyeballs in seconds. I don’t have to worry if it sounds exactly right or wait for approval from a moderator or editor. Nor do I have to concern myself with whether or not it’s meaningful or fits in. If I feel the need to make a random statement about Monday Night Football or have a song stuck in my head and want to tell someone about it, I can do it on Twitter.
We can start a dialogue in seconds about any topic. During awards shows, people give their reactions and congratulations to winners in real time, within moments of the envelopes being opened. There’s instant feedback available to any content producer who’s looking for it.
Conversely, when I publish a new article or interview, I can tweet that link out within a minute and give my readers news as it breaks. As a fan, I can interact directly with the people I want to talk to, without having to go through a middleman and hope that my message makes it to the intended recipient.
For me, Twitter has become a way to keep in touch with people that I can’t connect with over phone or email. On my feed, I’ve had conversations with my hero, my favorite actors and celebrities, former interview subjects, and friends I’ve met in my travels or theirs. It’s truly helped build and maintain my social network.
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Thanks to Twitter, I can say I’m friends with several people who worked on one of my favorite television series… in England. We’ve never met in person, and we might never meet, but we talk so regularly via tweets that we’ve become close. I’m being followed on Twitter by people that I never thought would give me the time of day. Yet we’ve since met in real life, and it’s like meeting up with an old friend.
Critics say that 140 characters isn’t enough to say anything meaningful. A New York Times article quoted one tech writer on the impossibility of using Twitter for what he considered “literate communication.” Not to mention, there’s a certain irony in the idea that although social networks are all about expressing ourselves, one of the most popular mediums is the one where you have the least space to do so – limiting our words, our pictures, and our profiles.
Yet the anonymity of Twitter is also one of its biggest strengths, the same one that makes the Internet so appealing. We are not judged by our age, our orientation, or our appearance but by the content we share. We are protected by the safety of our keyboards. (I say that last part with some hesitance as I can say I’ve also been the target of some Twitter harassment in my time. Yet I suppose it’s the flip side of being able to make friends without them judging me on my physical appearance.)
Twitter has become so powerful that it even poses a threat to nations. We’ve seen several foreign countries, including Iran, China, and South Korea, censor Twitter, concerned with its influence. We can now create our own public images and represent ourselves, uncensored and uninhibited, in the name of any cause, big or small. Whether or not that’s a good idea depends on each individual person.
I can’t say that a lot of what I tweet is particularly meaningful. No, it’s mostly talking about what I’m working on, what I had for breakfast, or the occasional random thought like my feeling that Gabriel Macht would have made a much better Don Eppes than Rob Morrow did on CBS’ Numb3rs. Still, what we have to say is important, it’s just no longer the end-all.
Twitter has become the enabler for us to have any discussion. And thus, I must admit, it has a point. About 200 million of them, last I checked.
Brittany Frederick, is an award-winning freelance entertainment journalist who reaches millions of people around the world every day with her unique blend of sophisticated analysis, sarcastic humor, and varied life experience. She maintains her own blog (DigitalAirwaves.net) and you can follow her on Twitter (@tvbrittanyf).