Social Media Platforms Explained for Aliens: Twitter
By Angelique Klawansky
Imagine if aliens landed on earth, ones that were more Roswell-style than Independence Day. What would they think of life on planet Earth and this thing we call social media? Now that we’ve examined Facebook, let’s take a look at Twitter:
Today, Twitter is a space that sends shivers of fear through the hearts and minds of community managers everywhere. Keyboard warriors with fake names sit and wait for brands to make a mistake, and when they do, it’s on and before you know it, you’re trending for all the wrong reasons.
Created in 2006 and launched into the digi-sphere in July 2006, Twitter was meant to be a place to update your status to the world. With strict character limits in place, Twitter became a place to hone the craft of saying as much as you could in 140 characters and in 2007 the # was born. What is the humble hashtag you ask? It’s when you put a # in front of a word or phrase so that people can search and identify messages on a specific topic.
Before very long, Twitter was a far cry from the platform meant to update your status or tweet to the world and became a murky pool of fake accounts and bots spreading misinformation across the globe with startling ease. And thanks to the ease with which to create an account and keep your identity hidden, people felt it ok to say anything they wanted on the platform, without fear of having their digital alter egos revealed.
Twitter also started to verify famous people’s accounts with a blue tick and suddenly these accounts were being hacked or held hostage for a fee. A whole new genre of employment opened up and we saw the rise of influencers – famous people who had lots of followers and got paid money by brands to promote items. This made for many a faux paux on Twitter when influencers and brands got it wrong.
Then Twitter got political and suddenly, if your tin pot dictator was stepping out of line and doing more shady business than usual, then people used Twitter to alert the world. These people also used Twitter to plan and organise riots – like the UK riots in 2011, or did they?
The ease with which you could send out this information and have it viewed a million times over made this platform the perfect way to stay on top of news, like places to avoid in a riot. Some could choose to use that information in a different manner, like the police, but there is no denying that Twitter had become a valuable tool to easily disseminate bite-sized information.
The problem with easily disseminating information is that anyone and everyone can do it, even people who probably shouldn’t. By now you’ve definitely heard of Trump and the famous Twitter account. So famous in fact that they created a pop-up museum for his tweets. The darker side of Twitter revealed millions of bots and fake accounts, some used for nefarious deeds like spreading misinformation during the 2020 elections. Conspiracy theorists and fake news creators had a field day with Twitter, after all, you could buy fake followers and make yourself look like someone you weren’t.
And along came catfishing, the art of hooking a loved one by pretending to be someone you weren’t, while not exclusive to Twitter, this phenomenon became so widespread there is even a TV series on exposing catfishers.
Like a bad boy gone good, Twitter has tried to clean up its image, installing rules and regulations, suspending fake accounts and bots, and labeling fake news as fake. But is it a little too late for this bluebird to make a comeback after a somewhat storied past? With the rise of younger social media platforms offering new social media users a place where their parents don’t go, this might just see Twitter age out as its user base does.
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