Exploring the Year through the Eyes and Ears of Twitter –
a few thoughts on the social, psychological and economic effects of self-perpetuating social media
It is possible to explore the world through tweets and make a conclusion about the state of the world through Twitter’s ears and what people said, believed and commented on during 2014.
Rather grandly Twitter proclaims that ‘if it happened in the world, it happened on Twitter.’
All the Moments
You can follow their interpretation of the key moments in 2014 from ‘single tweets that captured our imagination to hashtags that sparked global conversations.’
Big ticket sports events from Winter Olympics to World Cup to Commonwealth Games, entertainments and so-called celebrities feature highly as they seem to think we cannot function unless a celebrity has ‘endorsed’ our actions and thoughts.
Deaths of the famous (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Williams), disasters like plane MH370 being shot down, MH17, Ebola, unrest in Hong Kong, the Scottish Independence Referendum and nonsense like the Ice Bucket Challenge – all was tweeted endlessly.
All the Perspectives
The above are really a record of responses to major news stories, but they go further, adding some sociological and psychological depth. The section on ‘Perspectives’ features ‘notable celebrities and influencers.’
The obsession with so-called celebrities reflects a contemporary view of the media and advertisers that thinks we cannot function unless a celebrity has ‘endorsed’ their products and our actions and thoughts.
A few of us go out of our way to avoid anything to do with these people because the definition of a ‘celeb’ is so vague – look at Get Me Out of Here, I’m a Celebrity and Strictly Come Dancing.
However, the musings and mutterings of Lady Gaga, to take but one, are represented as world-changing deep thoughts whereas they are mainly self-promoting and vainglorious. Some famous people use their positions to raise money and awareness of genuinely good causes (Bob Geldof, Prince Harry), but most don’t.
The sad fact is, however, that by virtue of endless exposure these people start to have influence on the media which becomes self-perpetuating, so they start to affect the rest of us.
Move Over Twitter
However, this fun socio-economic game may be the last time we do it. It will soon be less Twitter’s ears than more Instagram’s eyes. Watch out Twitter, Instagram is coming to get you .
In a piece on Wired, Instagram Is Getting So Good At News, It Should Scare Twitter, Jessi Hempel wrote to explain how the instant image commentary is set to overtake the instant word.
She said it took ‘Instagram just nine months to boost its user base by 50 percent. By contrast, the number of monthly active users on Twitter has remained nearly stagnant over the past year. At 284 million, the figure rose just 4.8 percent last quarter.’
Obviously user numbers are not the only measurement that matters. The big key factor is that ‘Instagram owes its growing role as a news service to the rise of photos as a form of communication. They’re faster to take and often easier to decode.’
There is a feeling that exchanging text-based messages is a bit out of date and while Twitter does carry images, most tweets are text-heavy. The climate now is to shoot everything on still or video and get it out there, for which Instagram is (for now) the perfect platform.
Hempel thought that for now ‘Twitter remains a better tool for discovering new information with a more robust search engine and product features like “lists” that allow users to lump feeds together by topic and follow them. Users can search from the desktop as well as the mobile app. And the service allows tweeters to link to outside information.’
The facility to create accounts that can serve as ‘emergency alert systems’ also gives an edge to Twitter, but as Instagram see themselves as a news service as much as anything, refinements and better search will go on and real-time news will be increasingly part of the psyche of users.
Search is vital and there is a difference between being interested in something and liking it, and that difference is what will separate the genres as one starts to decline and the other grows to (temporary) dominance.
It was certainly a smart move by Facebook to grab hold of Instagram. At the time some commentators raised their eyebrows, wondering why. Now they know. Now we all know.
Other blogs to check out:
Is Social Media Marketing Your Key to Some Extra Income? 21 October 2014
Facebook Is the Newest Kid on the Retail Shopping Block, 16 September 2014
If Twitter Ruled the World, What Would Its Policies Be? 19 August 2013
Image: Exey Pantaleev