Twitter: more than just celeb gossip
By Kerryn Le Cordeur
Twitter has been making headlines in the past few weeks, and it’s not just because I’ve finally jumped on the bandwagon to become a semi-regular tweeter myself. While it might be a fun way of keeping track of the latest celebrity activity or even enjoying the banter between fellow ‘Twits’, world events such as the 2009 Iran elections and subsequent protests, or the
at the start of 2010, have shown the microblogging site to be a useful news source and communication tool. More recently,
Nelson Mandela’s health
, Barack Obama’s State of the Union address and the political situation in Egypt have once again put Twitter in the spotlight.
Madiba has certainly captured the media’s attention in recent weeks, and a lot of the hype has come from Twitter – firstly with a
running rampant across the site that the former president had died, and then with the frenzy that arose with his legitimate admission to Milpark hospital and the subsequent
about his condition. While the hoax didn’t exactly do wonders for Twitter’s credibility as a legitimate source, many people used the microblogging site as a way to keep up with Madiba’s stay at the hospital, to share news from the press conference that did eventually take place and to revel in the good news that he had been sent home.
But moving on from a topic that’s been discussed to death, 25 January marked another big day in the Twittersphere. The
nominations were announced in the morning (well, at least on American time), resulting in 10 000 tweets on the topic. More interesting, however, was that Obama’s State of the Union address, which took place later the same day, resulted in 100 000 tweets, and as Lihle Mtshali
on Times LIVE, these weren’t about who was wearing what, but rather what the President had to say.
Then, also on 25 January, the
began as tens of thousands marched against such issues as lack of free elections and speech, corruption, high unemployment and inflation, and with the demand for the end of the Hosni Mubarak regime. And, as the anti-government protests continue, Uzair Parker
on Memeburn that “the rest of the world watched in amazement as the government’s security forces systematically began taking down all forms of telecommunication and online social media, bringing the country’s internet to a complete standstill.”
Not so great for Twitter, one might think – no access equals no opportunity for Twitter to takes its place in the citizen journalism sphere. Except that before being blocked in Egypt, the microblogging site was used to increase the number of protesters significantly, and even since the shutdown, support for the Egyptian people has been flooding the site.
On top of this, Google and Twitter have joined forces and
a service to allow people in Egypt to send Twitter messages by dialling a number and leaving a voicemail, which is automatically translated into a message that is sent to Twitter using the hashtag, #egypt.
Seems there’s no getting away from the ubiquity that is social media, then – something not only an Egyptian dictator, but also our South African politicians can attest to. Julius Malema is no stranger to Twitter, having borne the brunt of much ridicule on the site, especially after a statement by the ANC Youth League demanded the
of the site, which resulted in
becoming a trending topic worldwide.
However, President Zuma has decided to jump on the Twitter bandwagon in preparation for his State of the Nation address. A
from the President’s office (@PresidencyZA) last week called for suggestions and comments in the run-up to this year’s address, with the hashtag, #SONA2011, which quickly began trending. The Office of the Presidency says it has an active following on both Twitter and Facebook and feels this represents a considerable part of the constituency. It adds that Twitter gives South African citizens the opportunity to get involved. Certainly taking a leaf from Obama’s book, it seems – let’s hope they both live up to their promises and that using social media to give citizens the opportunity to be heard isn’t just a new type of spin doctoring.
In any case, there’s no denying governments and ordinary citizens and celebrities all understand the power social media has to gain supporters (or protesters), publicity, and, whether real or not, friends (or enemies). One wonders what the original intention of the founders of Twitter was – as a superfluous social tool or as the type of networking and news making tool it’s come to be (even if it must still be
) of late.
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(Created: 02 February 2011)
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