Something happened recently which really brought home to me the power of Twitter. On a flight from New York back home to Ireland, the behaviour of another passenger as they boarded struck me as strange. Instead of mentioning this to a stranger sitting beside me, I shared this thought to my ‘Diary’ — by which I mean I posted it on Twitter…
I proceeded to do the usual transatlantic flight stuff, grazing on food, movies and music, while trying to sleep sitting up. Towards to end of the flight, this passenger appeared to be actively engaging her vocal chords in a ‘discussion’ with some other passengers. On landing this escalated into her displaying behaviour which belied being her as being somewhat ‘tired and emotional’. Some minutes after touchdown, two policemen boarded and it seemed that was the end of that.
I proceeded to deplane, head home and catch some welcome sleep, in the preferred horizontal position. On waking, my phone and Twitter stream were full of messages from journalists, looking for the ‘scoop’ on the ‘Rock-star Air-Rage’ story.
My tweet was quoted on numerous newspapers, online articles and over Irish national radio waves. I refrained from making a bad situation worse for Ms O’Riordan, so chose to pass on ‘dishing the dirt’ to the press folks about the incident. We all make mistakes, but those in the public eye, do so, in a very public manner. It later transpired that her marriage had just broken up and I wish her well in getting her life back on an even keel.
I’ve never done the ‘Dear Diary,’ thing, but over the past 4 years or so, I have recorded over 30,000 diary entries, in the form of Twitter posts. Committing thoughts to twitter is a bit like writing in a diary, except that all your “followers” may see them. On Twitter, I often forget that others are listening. I still feel a little embarrassed when I meet someone I don’t know, who says, ‘I follow you on Twitter’, my mental response to this is, “why would anyone want to do that?”
So why tweet, then?
Well, for me, it acts as a way of crystallising a thought or observation. The brevity imposed by twitter’s 140 character limit ensures that the essence of the idea is distilled, with little room for waffle. The other main social channels all have their pros and cons, but twitter is my social channel of choice. Facebook is useful for keeping in touch with family and friends, whereas Twitter enables us to discover things we weren’t previously aware of. I love its serendipity.
The format just feels right. There are multiple reasons for this. A key differentiator is the #hashtag’s ability to on-board us into a timeline with others, “around a virtual campfire”. This may be a topic, event or the live TV/Twitter combo, a particular favourite of mine
Twitter recently announced that it had hit 284 million active users and predicts total revenue of $1.3bn for 2014 — up from no revenue at all four years ago.
Twitter was however, far from an overnight-success, but rather evolved through many “wrong turns” and iterations before the Twitter bird landed “on the right perch”. , To get the full lowdown on the various founders’ multiple failures that culminated in Twitter’s eventual success, check out, “Hatching Twitter” -the eBook by@nickbilton . One ‘tipping point’, where Twitter really began to gain traction, was at the annual SXSW event in Austin, Texas in 2007, the year after it was first ‘hatched’. In the seven years since then, it has continued to flourish and though its subscriber numbers are still far from approaching those of Facebook, I believe it to be a far more exciting and dynamic platform.
Also, it’s no longer viewed as being a place where, “people just talk about what they had for breakfast”.
I never did figure out which Superhero mask Dolores was wearing …??