The one thing you can say for certain about Twitter is that it makes a terrible first impression. But, as millions have discovered, it turns out that Twitter has an unexpected depth, coined by the writer Clive Thompson, as “ambient awareness.” A strangely satisfying glimpse into those naked social segments of others, like a virtual peephole; but one where the observer knows he’s being watched and enjoys the attention.
Twitter has dramatically transformed the way in which new ideas are shared and spread. News and information that would traditionally have taken hours, days, or even weeks to go from one location to another can now occur in seconds. Twitter’s power is both an ally to democracy and a mortal enemy to those governments and corporate entities who have created and held onto their power by controlling the information we mere mortals receive.
“Twitter is a virtual peephole, where the observer knows and enjoys being watched.”
Because of the power of the tweet, the spreading of an idea, or of news occurring somewhere in the world can no longer be blocked. During the Iranian elections, for example, the Iranian government attempted to control communication and block any images of what was occurring in Iran from making their way to the general public. But they were never able to control all the information and images that were being seen by the world in “real-time.” Similarly, when an earthquake rocked the country of Haiti, not only were images from the torn country in the aftermath of the quake being tweeted around the world, but commentaries and opinions of what people were seeing were being read, heard, and readily retweeted.
Let’s face it, the psychology of Twitter’s appeal is enough, in itself, for a volume or two, but what’s turned out to be the most interesting aspect of the platform is the way in which it’s been embraced and expanded at such an extraordinary speed, to provide functionality that its creators never dreamed of. It’s not just about what Twitter’s doing to us anymore; it’s about what we’re doing to it!
An extract from ‘Follow Me! Creating A Personal Brand With Twitter’ by Sarah-Jayne Gratton (@grattongirl), John Wiley & Sons 2012. Click here to get your copy now!