By Ali Khimji
There used to be a time when following someone could lead to some sort of reprimand, but we now live in an age where it is commonplace to follow a range of celebrities, as well as friends and family. (If you’re lucky, they may even follow you back).
In-case you don’t know, Twitter is the social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send out ‘tweets’, a post of up to 140 characters. But if I want to see your ‘tweets’, then I have to ‘follow’ you, and if you want to see mine, then you have to ‘follow’ me.
The site has over 100 million users, and has been growing since its launch in 2006. Following the LA Lakers’ win over the Boston Celtics in this year’s NBA Finals, tweets reached a record 3,085 per second.
Twitter is used by a range of people, celebrities and organisations. Last month, a mother decided to tweet during the 13 hour labour of her son. But most recently, Greater Manchester police posted updates on the incidents they were covering within 24 hours. The tweets can be seen here.
Posts included police attending to reports of a man holding a baby over a bridge (the ‘baby’ turned out to be a dog that didn’t like bridges). Another relayed that credit had been stolen from a mobile phone, and one told us of a man that acted strangely when his bank card was refused.
The police service insisted that the reasoning behind this was to show the general public the varying nature of the work that they do, and going through the Twitter page, it is apparent that they have a massive workload.
But is this what Twitter should be used for? Pear Analytics, an American market research firm, analysed 2000 tweets in August 2009 and found that 40% was Pointless Babble, 38% was conversational, and 9% was Self-Promotion. The remaining 13% was spread between Self-promotion, Spam and News.
The website also rose to prominence during last year’s Iranian elections, when people were able to send out real-time updates of the situation. Surely this would be essential in a country that has media censorship?
However, Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, argues that social networks do not promote the passionate collective engagement that causes individuals to make commitments that result in social change. In particular, the Facebook page for the ‘Save Darfur Coaltion’ has 1,282,339 members, but the financial commitment of each member amounts to 15 cents each.
We want to hear your views (you can use more than 140 characters to tell us!).
How do you think Twitter and Facebook should be used? Do you think your local hospital should send out updates of which operations they’ve done that day? Or maybe emel should let you know what we’ve been up to each hour?