The Power of Twitter

[Iqra Dahir Abdi | Contributing Writer]

It would be easy to think of random, irrelevant and weird thoughts being shared with the world when you think of twitter. For majority of twitter users, this assumption is true. However, one must not underestimate the skill of writing a punchy tweet in 140 characters, the skill requires that of a modern day language genius. Alone, a punchy tweet is just that. Collectively, punchy tweets can spark a social movement. #OccupyCentral and #BlackLivesMatter became large-scale social movements due to collective punchy tweets that informed the twitter world of the social inequalities in China and America.

Even academics are convinced that twitter is a social force. Take the earthquake in Haiti 2010, some scholars argue the rapid response and the reason for raising $8 million was because of twitter. Other scholars suggest that social media is changing public discourse; political, environmental, technological and entertainment agendas are being set on social media. According to academics, it appears that the power of twitter is undisputable.

Twitter state that they have 288 million monthly active users that send 500 million tweets every day. This figure is undoubtedly high and explains why twitter can be seen to be responsible for social movements.

Even politicians have jumped on the twitter bandwagon. Hillary Clinton took to her twitter account, @ReadyForHillary, to announce that she would be trying to break the hardest glass ceiling, by running for the US presidency, again. Perhaps she opted in for social media this time, as it commonly argued that social media is the reason she lost in 2008.

@NicolaSturgeon, leader of Scottish National Party, also uses twitter. She uses the site to promote campaigns and responds to statements from other party leaders – mostly Ed Miliband and David Cameron who both use twitter.

@HataliaH_, from Hertfordshire University, states that most of her twitter use is consumed by keeping up to date with current affairs. She adds:

“On twitter I have access to more news mediums. This isn’t possible on any other platform. Whenever I get bored, I just go on twitter and read something.”

Twitter has the capabilities of uniting people and information from all over the world. This information often comes in the form of history, with many people trying to enlighten the twitter community. @Lablelfilm took to twitter to state that Clinton was not the first woman to try and run for the seat in the White House, but actually the sixth.

Ever wondered why the north of France was called Paris Roubaix -‘the hell of the north?’ It is because France looked like hell after the First World War, according to @CyclingDirectSA. For anyone that is interested in the first black women to receive PHDs, @Soundslikeshay can tell you that it was Georgiana R. Simpson and Sadie Tanner Mossell.

Twitter offers some history beyond the classroom and the information is available for all to access. Information is not limited by age, country or gender. Perhaps politicians use twitter for this reason – it is better to know how much twitter users know, rather than hear it on the news.

However, the powerful 288 million twitter users represent only the active users and not the inactive users. Twitter prefer not to broadcast the total figure – the sum of active and inactive users. Luckily, Twitter revealed this figure when they completed their IPO in 2013, where the figure was 883 million active and inactive users in total. Form this, twitter seems less powerful, as more people abandon the site than those that stay active.

Abusing the power

It seems almost cliché to state that power is commonly abused. There is evidence for this throughout history, on Game of Thrones and even Disney movie Lion King. Sadly, it appears to be the younger users of twitter, under the age of 30, that are abusing this new found power.

Twitter regularly kills people, not literally but figuratively. Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose fell victim to a twitter death. It was inaccurately reported that Rose was found dead in his home on twitter. The Guns N’ Roses frontman even began trending with millions of people discussing his death with #RIPAxlRose.

Rose saw the lighter side of the twitter death and responded: “If I’m dead do I still have to pay taxes?” Fortunately, Rose had a sense of humour, but it is doubtful that a family member that saw these tweets and believed the death would find it amusing. Rose was not the only victim of the death hoax trending on twitter: Kanye West, Justin Bieber, Morgan Freeman and even the US President, Barack Obama were all killed on twitter.

Separation is Twitter’s speciality. The social media site harbours 288 million active users, yet the only thing they have in common is their ‘active’ status. Twitter is divided into ethnic groups such as ‘Black Twitter’, ‘Asian Twitter’, ‘White Twitter’, ‘Oriental Twitter’ and many more.

These groups do not live in harmony either. @iMCNasty tweeted: “This new twitter update should’ve got rid of transgender, fake feminist and shea butter twitter.” Transgender twitter if referring to the transgender community on twitter. Fake feminist twitter is used to class the women that tweet about hopeless men. Shea butter twitter is for the women on twitter that complain about black men being attracted to non-black women.

As well as keeping separate, the sub-categories within twitter expand prejudice and discrimination on the social networking site. This side of twitter highlights a completely unfiltered and highly offensive community. It is almost surprising that these divided groups come together to initiate social change, or is this an accident?

@Munaaa_baby from Anglia Ruskin University said:

“I don’t like twitter, it’s too much. People are always arguing, shaming, cussing, stereotyping and generalising. When I first signed up I didn’t expect twitter to be like that, it’s just too much negativity. I stopped tweeting because I was scared someone would attack me!”

Twitter state that they are taking steps to combat the discrimination and prejudice on their site. They have taken steps to increase their service that deals with complaints and have expanded abuse to include indirect threats. However, this response is likely to do nothing to combat the discrimination and prejudice on their site.

It is ironic that the same discrimination and prejudice twitter is credited to combat across the world, flourishes on their site. It is important to question if twitter created a monster when they bought 288 million users together on a virtually unregulated platform. Form the evidence, it appears they have.

Have your say in the comments below or on Twitter @TridentMediaUK! 

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The Power of Twitter