How Twitter has Changed the World

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The recent commotion over #Twittersilence is just one in a long line of examples illustrating the sheer power and controversy surrounding the Twittersphere. Just a quick glance at this trend immediately shows the vast amount of sometimes aggressively differing opinions from around the globe- and this is just over a peaceful protest! In its seventh year, we look at some of the key ways in which Twitter has (and continues to) revolutionise our society. The real question is: Do we utilise Twitter to reshape the world, or has this social media sensation spun far beyond our control?

Everyone can share everything

This may seem an obvious point, but it is definitely the key to both Twitter’s success, as well as its dangers.  Today’s world is one totally different to that of our parent’s; just a glance at your Twitterfeed can unite  you with views from around the world, with the average distance between two users mentioning each other being 744 miles! And when I say views, I mean anything from a sloth meme to death threats- so we’re talking pretty diverse.

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In this way, Twitter has provided a social platform for everyone to enter the previously exclusive world of the internet, enriching this online social tapestry with cultural diversity. On the other hand, many (particularly of the older generation) argue that this has gone too far, as we are passively fed a range of untraceable opinions, instead of passing time with friends and family in the flesh.

With 400 million tweets being sent every day, it’s easy to see how this phenomenon can quickly spiral out of control.

Platform for change

Without Twitter providing an accessible and powerful platform, ground-breaking causes such as #yosoy132– a Mexican movement protesting for free media and a true democracy- would never have reached such high a status, and therefore would never have achieved so much. The strength of Twitter as a political catalyst is also embodied in the Twitter account @EverydaySexism, which seeks to document examples of how sexism still permeates everyday life.

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Breaking News

In a similar way, Twitter has undoubtedly revolutionised the way in which news is delivered to the masses, with momentous news events such as the 2008 Presidential elections and the Haiti earthquake being instantaneously broken en masse to the 200 million users of Twitter.

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Promoting the ‘new’ celebrity

One of the less wholesome phenomena attached with the rise of Twitter has to be the evolution of a new form of celebrity engagement- one which largely promotes shameless self-promotion.  Celebs aren’t just to blame however, with companies such as Topshop seizing the opportunity to ceaselessly inject their followers with offers and brand promotion, with 16% of all tweets containing links to external websites.

On top of explicit marketing, Twitter also feeds into today’s often toxic Celebrity culture- a concept increasingly perturbing to psychologists. Permit me to play the cynic, but you only have to read into the terminology of ‘follower’ to expose the underlying implications of passivity and compliance.

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The new CV

Twitter, amongst other social media sites, has also transformed the job market. No longer is a glowing CV good enough, when your potential employer can view drunken tweets and embarrassing (yet hilarious) snaps of you and your mates from last weekend. Particularly in competitive industries such as the business and media world’s, Twitter has been hijacked as a networking tool, acting as an extra reference to employers. For many, it is an uncomfortable truth that what many consider to be a private and personal activity can be held against you. Take Paris Brown, the youth crime commissioner who recently quit after racist and homophobic tweets were discovered.

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Twitterships- The New Social Interaction

Since the dawn of social media, we have been constantly reassessing the boundaries of social interaction: are ‘indirect’ tweets acceptable? How many times can I post instagram pictures of food before all my followers desert me? Joking aside, the lack of rules of socially acceptable practise has led to the rise of unnerving behaviours. For some (admittedly already with issues), Twitter becomes a way to showcase problematic behaviour- just look at Amanda Bynes’ recent onslaught of inappropriate tweets. Perhaps even more worryingly, The Guardian revealed that:

a recent study has shown Twitter to be more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol

…indicating that the problems associated with Twitter may only get worse with time.

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Trolls

One of the most widely acknowledged concerns of Twitter has to be the emergence of the Troll. Forget ugly creatures lurking under bridges, this new species is known to launch vicious attacks at anytime, on anyone- particularly on high profile tweeters. What started as a relatively innocent (compared with now) display of jibes has spiralled beyond control, culminating in serious personal harassment and even death threats. Just recently Professor Mary Beard received bomb and rape threats. The only comfort to come from attacks such as these  is the amount of support shown by the public- once again a small minority overshadows the majority of public decency.

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In the wake of this, Twitter is considering a ‘report abuse’ button. Events like these show us that even today, seven years on from its birth, Twitter continues to change our world- perhaps it’s time we gave a thought to where it will lead to.

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