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The Phenomena of Twitter

Since its launch in 2006, Twitter has witnessed an incredible growth in its usage. The platform reinvented the art of short writing and made it mainstream. In just 280 characters, people share their thoughts and viewpoints with the world. How people communicate on twitter is unmatchable to any other platform. Twitter, in a way, reimagined the concept of small talk. It made people to think about small talk as something fun and exciting. This new ideas of communication wholeheartedly embraced by the people as well. In a year after its launch, twitter was recording 4 lakh tweets in a quarter. By 2008, the number jumped to 100 million- recording 50 million tweets per day. It’s co-founder, Jack Dorsey, said in 2007: “Twitter can develop into something not only useful, but essential”. His words have become a reality of today.

What is twitter?

Google describes twitter as a “micro blogging platform”. It’s an understated definition that limits the potential of the platform. Although the platform encourages writing in brief, it doesn’t limit people to it. In Dec 2017, twitter introduced a feature called ‘Threads’. Threads are boon for those individual who tend to write in detail. Using this feature, several tweets are done in a row, each connected with the other. It makes long-form writing possible on the site. Professionals, influencers and companies use thread to share startup ideas, movie and book recommendations etc.

Thread is very helpful for journalists too. Journalists use it extensively to share information. They use thread to write news stories in short, giving out only what is required. This is, probably, the reason why the platform is flooded with information and news. (Sometimes with irrelevant news. I mean why would I want to know which celebrity is dating whom!?)

Boon for modern writers

Technology has brought many changes in our lives, including in our read habit. In the time of reels and other short-form content, reading and writing too has become virtual. Reading paperbacks is a pleasure for only few now (it’s mine for sure!). Blogs have replaced books and newspaper. Today, the success of a writer is defined by how crisp and skim-worthy his/her writing is. And, in my view, twitter is the best place for blogging. (I hear screams for what I said. But let me elaborate you impatient people!). Twitter has 450 million monthly users. Millions of people here are sharing, reading and expressing their ideas. Twitter’s trending list enables writer to know what people are talking about. It’s an opportunity for writers to understand their audience and write content accordingly. 

It encourages brevity

Any professional writer would tell you that brevity is the soul of good writing. Cleaning out the clutter and keeping only what’s necessary is a must-have skill writers. Conveying more with less words is what distinguish a good writer from a bad one. Twitter aid you in that. You learn to formulate short sentences on twitter, which is a sacrosanct skill for writing well. With only 280 characters in hand, brevity is a pre-requisite for writing a good tweet. It compels people to keep editing their tweet to bring it under the set limit. Formulating and editing your tweets consistently would make you exceptionally well in writing. Probably, for this reason, many famous writers such as Stephen king, J.K Rowling also use twitter. Follow their accounts, read their writings, you learn a lot from them. 

Furthermore, twitter provides you an instance feedback, which could be both positive and negative. Some readers will admire your writing, others will find loopholes. In both ways, it is good for you as a writer. Negative feedbacks offer you the chance to do improvement in your writing.

Twitter versus other social media platforms 

In many ways, Twitter is superior than other social media platforms. Here, people identify with their intellectual competence, instead of their taste in movies and music as it is the case on Facebook and Instagram. And frankly, Twitter is more fun than the other social media platforms. People here generate humours out of serious things, make fun of celebrities, and write jokes about world leaders. On twitter, interaction is more mature, unlike its other counterparts. The reason might be the demography of the platform. ComScore’s data suggest that, unlike other platforms, twitter is used mostly by young adults, not by teenagers. Teenagers accounts for only 11%  percent of it’s users. 

It’s a good thing for writers as they have more mature and engaging audience to interact with. Also, this break the misconception that innovation is driven only by younger generation. Despite having less teenage users, twitter was still the 10th most downloaded app of the last decade.

Challenges with the platform

Twitter has its own share of problems and challenges. Foremost of them is the issue of privacy. Twitter has repeatedly undermined its user’s privacy. Twitter sued by the US government in 2022 for misusing its users’s personal data for target advertising. The company had to pay $150 million as a punishment. 

Algorithmic biases 

Another big concern with twitter is its algorithmic bias. Company’s internal survey in 2021 revealed that Twitter’s algorithm pushes content of political- right more than the political-left. Right-leaning politicians and media outlets see higher “algorithmic amplifications” as compared to the left. This manipulation with the information ecosystem undermines free speech. Critical writing is possible only if they is a free flow of information, with any manipulation. Twitter’s algorithm found to favour white faces over black one, men over women. And, then there’s the spread of fake news and misinformation which Twitter has failed to deal with. It hasn’t done enough to curb hate speech either.

Twitter is addressing the problems

Twitter has taken a cognisance of these problems lately. When pandemics started, there was a overflow of misinformation about the virus on twitter. To tackle this, the platform introduced “labels” that would be added to tweets having misleading content. These labels helped people in identifying misinformation during pandemic. Moreover, twitter’s co-founder and former CEO, Jack Dorsey,  announced his intention of funding a research that’ll create “an open source standard for social media”. According to Dorsey, this shared technical standard will curb hate speech across platforms. But, since the company has a new owner now (discussed in the next paragraph), future of this plan is undecided. 

Twitter has often demonstrated his commitment to free speech too. It also refused to comply with the Indian government’s new IT rules last year saying it undermines user’s privacy. Another famous instance was when twitter refused to obey Indian government’s order to block the accounts which are critical to Narendra Modi despite the pressure. All this signals that Twitter do care about its user’s concerns. However, there’s a lot more that needs to be done by twitter to make its platform more writer-friendly.

The Promise of Elon Musk 

There are big changes happening in twitter at this moment. Billionaire and founder of Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk bought twitter in $43 billion on Oct 27, 2022. Before finalising the deal, a whole circus played out for months between Musk and twitter (it would require a whole new article to explain that saga! So leave it.) Now the potent question is what would this deal entail for twitter users? Twitter, under Elon, is going to promote free speech or restrict it?

From what Musk has said about his goals for Twitter, there are reasons to be hopeful about the company’s future prospects. He has talked about twitter’s potential to promote free speech. He has talked about twitter’s potential to promote free speech. Musk intend to change moderation policies of twitter- he thinks they are too harsh- to make twitter more diverse. These sentiments echo in a tweet he did just a day after buying the company: “the bird is freed”. Additionally, he plans to remove non-human accounts or bots from the platform to curb misinformation.

Twitter’s future is exciting

Despite the challenges, twitter has a lot to offer to writers. My age was just seventeen when I started using twitter. As a aspiring journalist, I was amazed seeing so many people writing short messages to each other, deliberating and debating (sometimes fighting!) about issues of today. In the beginning, I would use it solely for reading stuff. My timeline would be full of reading materials that I save (by liking it) to read them later. I loved reading stuffs shared by people. And I know there are so many other like me on twitter who crave good content to read. That is why we need more and more writers to be on the platform. Twitter can be used (being used) to connect reader and writers like never before.

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