This morning Twitter wished me a happy 8th anniversary! I’ve been microblogging for 8 years. I remembered that the main reason I got a Twitter account in the first place was that I was writing for the Gringo Grita, the magazine of Peace Corps Dominican Republic, and we tried to write stories explaining what was going on in the greater culture to volunteers, who mostly only had occasional internet/television/People magazine access. This was–if you’ll recall–a time when it was still newsworthy for celebrities to open Twitter accounts and tweet for themselves instead of just having a publicist do it, so we kept hearing about Twitter.
I decided to try to explain the hot and confusing trend of Twitter, so I signed up for an account. Unfortunately, my few days with a Twitter experiment didn’t really qualify me.
I found the piece I wrote (thanks, Google Drive) and it’s kind of hilarious now, 63,000 tweets later. I’m sharing it here, because why not? It’s funny to think about how strange and foreign Twitter was to me then, given how many hundreds of times a day I check Twitter now.
Anyway, without further ado (or any edits/translations from 2017 Renata), let’s go back to a simpler time: July 2009, back before Twitter was full of Nazis (probably?), before our current president was using it to pen declarations of war, even before Lance Armstrong’s fall from grace (but, as you’ll see, after his massage).
What’s the Deal with Twitter?
I know you’ve heard it mentioned in all the finest news sources—CNN, NPR, People magazine—but what exactly IS Twitter? To quote from Twitter’s website, it is: “a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?”
Basically, it’s only the “status updates” part of Facebook (Twitter calls them “tweets”), and you can update it from your phone or from your computer. The catch: your updates have a max size of 140 characters. It sounds exceptionally stupid, and yet it’s super popular. In the name of investigative journalism, I emailed some college friends who are living in the States and using Twitter to find out more.
My friend Jenny says, “It is stupid. But my dad uses it so he can follow Lance Armstrong and that is kind of cool. But overall, deceptively simple and part of the cult of celebrity and likely a flash in the pan idiocy, like POGs.”
My friend Mary was slightly more enthusiastic, noting, “Twitter is kind of stupid, but kind of addictive. […] It’s like a time-delayed chatroom. And it’s a fun way to follow celebrities. I have Nathan Fillion, Neil Gaiman, Felicia Day, and Kevin Smith on my Twitter feed, among others, and it kind of brightens my day every time Kevin Smith says anything.”
I think in judging Twitter it’s important to remember that the main users of Twitter do not have to climb a loma to send a text message, nor do they have to pay 20 pesos an hour for Internet. Twitter seems to be the Internet equivalent of sitting on your doña’s porch and getting the scoop on who ‘s getting married and who bought a new moto, while also receiving texts from friends in the capital who have a new People magazine.
DoñaFulana54: Quien tienes hambre? Yo tengo moro aqui.
VoluntarioSureño: @DonaFulana54 Yo tengo un chin de hambre… vengo ahorita.
VoluntariaChula: I’m going to La Sirena today, does anyone want me to grab anything?
Voluntario69: @VoluntariaChula Will you get me peanut butter?
VoluntariaCapitaleña: OMG I JUST READ THAT BRITNEY SPEARS IS PREGNANT AGAIN
VoluntarioSureño: @ VoluntariaCapitaleña NO WAY
VoluntariaCapitalena: OH JK, CNN.COM SAYS IT WAS A FALSE RUMOR
DoñaFulana54: Mi sobrina tiene una gripe muy mal.
Voluntario Sureño: Has anyone heard anything else about swine flu?
PCDRMO: @ VoluntarioSureño It’s the H1N1 virus, not swine flu.
In other words, it’s absolutely something I could see myself using (with a little bit of self-loathing) when I go back to Nueva York.
If you’re interested in learning more, here are some notable people to follow (“follow” is Twitterese for “friend”) and a recent “tweet” from them:
Ashton Kutcher: http://twitter.com/aplusk
“I just did a google news search for “injured in fireworks accident”…. WTF…. people make me laugh”
Rainn Wilson (Dwight from The Office): http://twitter.com/rainnwilson
“I am on a plane with WIFI and with the TV show I am on playing on all the little TVs so of course I’m going to Tweet about it. Weird.”
Shaquille O’Neal: http://twitter.com/THE_REAL_SHAQ
“Just because your certified , doesn’t mean your qualified”
Stephen Colbert: http://twitter.com/stephencolbert
“Remember kids! In order to maintain an untenable position, you have to be actively ignorant.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger: http://twitter.com/schwarzenegger
“Fresno protests have good lines. Esp. the guy asking me 2 sign Terminator 2 & budget. But saying he loved me in Red Sonja – below the belt.”
Lance Armstrong: http://twitter.com/lancearmstrong
“On the massage table. Listening to Iron and Wine.”
Kevin Smith (Silent Bob) http://twitter.com/ThatKevinSmith
“Took Harley to ICE AGE in Union Square, then hit Forbidden Planet for Ugly Dolls. Geek-Dad in full effect. The wife owes me some soft-n-wet.”
Sockington (A Cat who has over 800,000 Twitter followers): http://twitter.com/sockington
“AND THEN THERE WAS THAT TIME I THOUGHT THE PILLOW WAS A SQUIRREL there I was going along this very couch and HOLY LITTERBOX A SQUIRREL”
CNN Breaking News: http://twitter.com/cnnbrk
“Jackson golden casket placed on stage. http://bit.ly/u08pJ”
NPR News: http://twitter.com/NPRNEWS
“Blagojevich Aide Pleads Guilty http://tinyurl.com/m9csxq”