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Is Twitter Just for Trivia?

By Latentexistence

A post on Facebook from my brother in law alerted me to something that John Humphrys said about twitter.

Educated men and women are devoting vast amounts of their time and intellectual energy sending entirely inconsequential messages.

Yes, it’s true. People do tweet about inconsequential things. Just like people say inconsequential things on the telephone, or in the pub, or in a million other ways. Unfortunately, this has entirely missed the point. Twitter is used for a myriad of things, and even the inconsequential messages are not really inconsequential.

What twitter does:

  • Alert the world to important news from disaster zones and oppressive regimes
  • Get information from people in need of help to the emergency services in relation to the above
  • Raise awareness of causes, be they disasters, missing people, or protest movements
  • Inform and co-ordinate protesters in oppressive regimes
  • Allow planning and co-ordination of protest groups in less totalitarian environments too
  • Keep people informed hours, even days ahead of mainstream news

Those are some pretty important things, but that’s not all twitter can do. What about:

  • Learn from people of many different skills, specialisms and roles, from many different walks of life
  • Provide business networking, leading to real opportunities for jobs or new customers
  • Access to experts to help solve problems in business or personal life
  • Allow customers to force business to react by posting negative experiences
  • Allow business to interact directly with customers and potential customers for research, customer service and to provide information
  • Allow governments to release information to the public easily
  • Allow the public to talk directly with politicians and get a response

And finally:

  • Those “inconsequential” messages – social chatter, moaning, commiseration, joy, depression, support, and friendship, forming real relationships between people
  • Allow those that cannot leave the house to talk to other people and engage in all of the above

I have personally either witnessed or been involved in every one of the points raised above. None of the above would happen if people were not using twitter for inconsequential messages as they wouldn’t be on twitter otherwise! Twitter changes lives and saves lives. The last point in the list above  is a lifeline for myself and for many other sick and disabled people. If you still think that inconsequential, we might have to send someone round to sort you out. I can probably find someone through twitter for that.

(Guest post by Steven Sumpter, known online as @latentexistence. Please check the original article for planned updates. For further thoughts on this please see the quotation from Joss Hands and linked interview in an earlier post.)

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