by Alec Rudolph and Paul DiPasqua
Twitter is quite a unique social media platform; Not only are users able to share photos and videos, but they can also casually chat with people from all over the world. However, Twitter was not always the mega-platform for expressing views and opinions that it is today.
The social micro-blogging service is a product of Jack Dorsey’s interest in mass transportation and experiments with keeping couriers, bus drivers, cab drivers, etc. in touch with each other in real-time. After noticing that taxi drivers were constantly updating their statuses while he was working on messaging systems for cab companies, Dorsey began planning to create a “web site that combined dispatch software and instant messaging“. The site was not met with as much acclaim as you would expect, and it was initially written off as a site meant strictly for prominent figures and those obsessed with chronicling every moment of their lives. However, Twitter began to grow on Americans and after Dorsey set up a demonstration of Twitter at the 2007 South by Southwest Interactive conference, the number of tweets per day tripled from 20,000 to 60,000 because “hundreds of conference-goers kept tabs on each other via constant twitters. Panelists and speakers mentioned the service, and the bloggers in attendance touted it,” according to Newsweek.
Due to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain using the site extensively in the 2008 election, Twitter became fully accepted by the American people. But the next year, 7239 miles away in Iran, another presidential election proved that Twitter was here to stay. In response to claims that the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmedinajad, had acquired massive amounts of fraudulent votes, Iranian officials tried to shut down all media in the country. Twitter, however, would not be stopped by this blackout and allowed Iranian users to tell the world what was really happening — with live updates. This apparently caught the attention of a U.S. State Department official, who e-mailed Dorsey because Twitter was “playing an important role at a crucial time in Iran,” and proceeded to request that Dorsey not perform scheduled site maintenance in order for protesters to keep tweeting. The site’s frequent compliance with these requests has led to it being noted as one of the most crucial communication tools in other protests, from the Arab Spring to the Occupy movement in New York and other cities.
As of 2013, Twitter’s 105,000,000 users sent out a collective 55,000,000 tweets per day. By now, these numbers have surely skyrocketed and although he has already revolutionized communication, Dorsey plans to bring about “a better and more immediate experience around the everyday things we do in life.”
As Twitter began to dig itself deeper into society, it naturally began to have certain effects on its users. For one, since tweets are limited to 140 characters, users can’t type in tangents and long paragraphs. Everything has to be short and concise. College professors report that students’ writing has changed to be a fog of brief snippets of first-person blog-speak and a file photo hurriedly culled from somewhere. However, this style of writing is very effective in certain fields. The news is meant to be reported as quickly and concisely as possible, while still providing an adequate amount of information. So, Twitter’s new format has had a huge influence on the way people wrote, particularly in the field of news reporting. This is why countless news outlets have turned to Twitter. The app’s format allows for quick and concise reporting, and it is seen by millions in a matter of seconds.
However, sometimes quick and concise is not sufficient. Often times, stories are too complicated to be squeezed into a tweet or link, and they can easily be distorted by ignorant eyes. As Matthew Arnold describes it, the reader suffers both from the effects of not enough information, and too much extraneous information.
There are more major effects of Twitter, such as affected relationships. James Vincent of Independent writes that countless relationships have been negatively affected by the use of social media, particularly Twitter. A simple concept, the analysis of a study done by Russell Clayton shows that users who use the app more report conflicts with their partners over the app. This is not a surprising concept, but those conflicts often result in broken relationships and emotional stress. This stress also tends to lead to more use of social media, so the app coincidentally benefits from the stress of its users. So, moderation is highly suggested with the app.
Of all the age groups that use Twitter, the teenager is perhaps the largest. The app plays a big part in the maturing of young adults, and while it was mentioned earlier that twitter could have positive effects on a person’s writing, negative effects certainly outweigh the positive. Michael Burton, in an article on Ragan.com, wrote that “there are growing signs that excessive use of direct messaging, especially Twitter, leads to an erosion of the English language…teachers are noticing more punctuation errors, spelling mistakes, and inconsistent capitalization usually found only in text messages and Twitter posts. More students are failing English exams due to a lack of basic grammar skills.” Kids are far to easily influenced to be on an app such as Twitter for too long, or else this could easily happen. So while Twitter does make for a useful news outlet, it also is the cause of broken relationships and poor grammar in teens and young adults.
Twitter is a unique social media site in that it has many functions. Unlike Instagram or Snapchat, users can post and view basically anything they want and talk to anyone they want in seconds. There is nothing like a tweet. It is a form of communication bundled together into 140 characters that can be a simple statement, a picture, a video, or a GIF. With that being said, the app applies to more than just the first and obvious sense, sight. We read and see everything on Twitter, like in real life. We can also hear videos being played, adding another human aspect to the app. Twitter provides all the means necessary to be able to see and listen to anything we want. Since this is the case, twitter’s multiple “mediums” of communication and observation consequently affect us in multiple ways.
Most notably, our social order itself has been greatly affected by Twitter. The social life of every person who has used the app has been affected. We see and hear things on the app that we otherwise wouldn’t likely see. We interact with people we otherwise wouldn’t react. We are more in touch with each other, and this has affected our society drastically, but not just among users. As we evolve more and more into a media based society, applications like Twitter only speed up the process from paper to digital. However, this could lead to a separated society down the road. Less face-to-face interaction can lead to an unorganized society that has failed to keep entirely in-touch over the years. I believe that as we use social media and electronic devices more and more, we as a society will lose touch with each other and become stagnant and boring. This seems likely considering the effects of Twitter on young users that were mentioned earlier. Only time will tell how much of an impact apps like Twitter will truly have, because the generation that grew up with Twitter will soon take over.