There is no question that, at an increasingly fast rate, technology and media have advanced significantly. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Internet, iMessage, text messaging, and other various forms of communication can now all reside on a single smartphone. Gone are the days when one would wait months for a letter. Waiting three days to respond to someone’s text would blow the world up in flames. Amidst the forever expanding technology and media, an interesting phenomenon has come before us, that phenomenon being… social media.
(Noun): websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.
Social media has given us the ability to communicate, collaborate, network, and express our interests. From the humble beginnings of BBSs and IRC chats, to having your “Top Friends” on MySpace, to the glory days of IM messaging, various platforms have emerged over time. Today we can see how platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have come to dominate the social media scene. One should, however, keep in mind that social media can also serve as a false sense of reality.
Many social media platforms function in a way in which our humanness is romanticized. We post pretty pictures, update people on our accomplishments and successes, and share information that is consistent with our beliefs and ideologies. Most often than not, the content we decide to share with others is artificially positive and highly individualized, which filters us away from a true, holistic perception of community, networking, and humanity. I love positivity and the use of social media to embrace positivity; don’t get me wrong. I am an avid user of Facebook and Instagram, and I believe everyone has the freedom to post whatever they want, when they want (not political bigotry… of course). But I want to stress here that we, as human beings, are multidimensional and, most often than not, social media portrays a unidimensional persona of one’s identity that should be taken with a grain of salt.
Despite the filtered versions of our lives that social media tends to depict, Twitter is an outlier. Twitter is gold. While other social media sites function in a very individualized fashion, Twitter allows for various community-based mediums of communication. From hashtags/trends, to hilarious memes, to research findings and articles, to news updates, to social advocacy and activism, to authentically speaking your mind, to sharing and obtaining insight, to sharing knowledge and information relevant to career, lifestyle, or academia, Twitter serves as a manifestation of what true social-media networking should be. Not only can you say what you want in its microblogging feature, but you can share (retweet) other thoughts, start trends, and make connections through this site. I mean, it’s hilarious, informative, and community-oriented. Twitter appeals to multiple dimensions of one’s lifestyle, whether it be current events, pop culture, humour, college stress, music albums, family and relationships, friendship, career, professional development, cross-cultural relations, and more. By appealing to different aspects of one’s life while offering the ability to network, collaborate, and draw connections about these various aspects, Twitter provides a medium for holistic collaboration via social media.
This space for interaction is created through Twitter’s timeline feature, where users can view tweets from who they’re following, view trends and retweets depending on their interests, and are free to retweet or tweet their own thoughts as responses to others. Compared to an influx of avocado photoshoots or sunsets via Instagram, or long ten paragraph rants via Facebook statuses, Twitter’s restrictive word limit (now extended to 280… what is the world COMING TO?) and its focus on conversation and interaction via timeline makes people think. It provides a space for collaboration and speech that encourages active dialogue as opposed to aimless scrolling and a focus on “likes.” By providing a platform that evokes dialogue between users based on people’s interests (i.e. who they follow, who their followers follow, etc.), Twitter creates a space for users to network and think about topics and issues that span over a multitude of interests.
With Twitter’s ability to structure a timeline tailored by users’ interests, various communities reside in Twitter. From research enthusiasts, to music lovers, to avid poetry writers, Twitter fosters the creation of groups in which users can become involved. For example, in times of heightened racial inequality, ‘Black Twitter’ shares motivation, news updates, inspiration, trends, funny jokes, and photos/videos relevant to the black experience, whilst drawing a community together in times of strife. Also, for researchers who want to further their own ideas and projects, communities of scientists can share data and articles relevant to their work. With Twitter’s focus on current events and news updates, researchers, as well as other Twitter users, can stay up to date on information relevant to their interests. Disclaimer— all this does not mean that Twitter is a real form of human interaction. It’s not. But in the day and age of social media, Twitter provides a medium for authentic thought, conversation, and self-expression through community in comparison with other forms of social media that champion individualism and filtered human identity.
Without technological advancements, communities within Twitter, trends and updates about world events, and dialogues during these news updates would not exist. The ability to interact and converse about information digitally is a new phenomenon that increases community awareness and knowledge. Twitter’s ability to offer holistic collaboration between users is emblematic of the beauty that the expansion of technology has given us. At your fingertips, information can circulate quicker than humanity has ever imagined — and with sites like Twitter, news, research, culture, music, and politics have been able to reach audiences around the world digitally in ways unprecedented in all of human existence.