Media Mind

Short Messages About Breakfast Can Change the World

My first Tweet was a lot like yours: lame. At the time I wasn’t sure what to expect from a service that shared short 140 character bursts about nothing. It seemed mostly like an echo chamber – where you test what might happen if you respond into the void and hear an echo. And for a long time it was an echo.

And then a strange thing happened. As I got into the habit of sharing information in the form of links or ideas that I found interesting, I met people who were like-minded. I found people I had never met before who read my blog posts. And I started searching on Twitter to see what I could find.

I found short messages and pictures of people’s breakfast, of course. I found memes and bots and messages that didn’t really make sense. And then I found real time news, ideas and amazing stories. There were first-person stories about earthquakes. There were impassioned pleas for attention to far flung corners of the world. There were news stories before they were reported on the news. And there were news stories never reported on the news.

The point is that Twitter felt like a new thing – a combination of CB Radio, Community Bulletin Board, conversation and chaos all at the same time. It was a new form of (relatively) unmediated conversation and opened up the world in a way that other walled garden networks (AOL, Facebook, Google) hadn’t done. Twitter’s become a little more grown up in the last year or two and feels more like a media network than it did a few years ago, but it’s still really interesting because you can use its filters to create your own channels for news.

It’s a challenge for a network built on decentralized messages to stay relevant to a large number of customers and to expand its purview beyond individual conversations. Twitter feels like it might get there. I still love seeing pictures of people’s daily experiences published to the web in real time and the snowball effect when people share a meme.

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