Twitter (2006- ) is an Internet website that lets you post messages that are up to 140 characters long. It is like a huge Internet bulletin board. Over 300 million people in the world now regularly use Twitter.
When I first heard about Twitter, I laughed. What in the world can you say in 140 characters? When I heard that actor Ashton Kutcher had an account, I laughed harder. But in 2009 when I heard that talk show queen Oprah was pushing it, I stopped laughing: she had enough media power to make it catch on. And so it has.
Words to know:
- tweet – a Twitter message. No more than 140 characters long, but it can have a link to a picture, video or web page.
- tweeting – sending a Twitter message.
- hashtag – a topic with a “#” in front of it, like #BlackLivesMatter. Used to make it easy to search and read tweets by topic or theme.
- trending – said of a hashtag with a growing number of tweets.
- followers – the people who have decided to receive your tweets.
- @ = what all usernames begin with: @BarackObama
The 140-character limit was a stroke of genius:
- Most people are too long-winded for their own good.
- It allows Twitter to be usable even when Internet service is limited, like in a poor neighbourhood, during a hurricane or in the middle of a government crackdown.
Unlike email and texting, tweeting is public. Unless you take special measures, anyone on the Internet can read your tweets. In practice, though, only your followers are likely see them.
Unlike newspapers, radio or television, it is hard for governments, political parties or big companies to control. That makes it great for those whose viewpoints and concerns are largely shut out of the mainstream media – like democrats in the Arab world or Blacks in the US. It also makes it easier for these same groups to stage protests and publicly question news reports, as during the Arab and Black Springs. No surprise, then, that some governments have blocked Twitter, like China.
That same quality makes it great for news. What it lacks in fact checking it more than makes up for in its range of information and opinion.
For example, without Twitter (and cameras on mobile phones) it is unlikely that police brutality would now be a big issue in the US. Police killings of Blacks have been going on for as long as I can remember. But now we no longer depend on the White press to (not) report it. We no longer depend on the police account (aka, lies). And we hear about cases all across the country, not just in our own city.
Black Twitter: In 2013 in the US, only 14% of Whites on the Internet used Twitter at least once a day. Among Blacks it was almost twice that, 26%. Even though I am not a big Twitter user, some of the posts that appear here come from things that first appeared on (or blew up on) Black Twitter.
– Abagond, 2015.
- Know them by their tweets?
- Examples of Twitter use:
- at least 100 million
- How daily life has changed in the last 30 years