The public continues to grow more and more confident in the effectiveness of Twitter’s 140-character updates. Although it has taken some time, a rising number of organizations and political leaders are seeing the benefits to tweeting. Yes, it can be used strictly as a social networking site; however, if used effectively, tweeting has the potential to move the public into action.
Within the last week, Twitter was flooded with the popular hashtag of “#IranElection.” Why? Political change. For the Baby Boomers who lived through the Vietnam War era, this may seem ludicrous; however, to the Millennials, it’s efficient and perfectly normal. Protesting via Twitter may have a larger influence than most of us think. These online protests have the potential to spread to millions of people in mere minutes, whereas a street protest is confined to a particular city or region. This type of political action has the capability to move a younger generation into action, something needed for quite some time now. If only we had Twitter during the Bush administration… 🙂
So what exactly has occurred in the Twitterverse the last few days? Since the re-election win of Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, reports of the country’s turmoil has leaked onto Twitter. Many tweets have surrounded the controversy of the validity of the voting process and counting, as well as protests to “free Iran.” Included in these tweets were stabs at the American mainstream media for not covering the details of the Iran election and Iran public opinion. In particular, CNN received a good amount of backlash from the Twitterverse, retaining the hashtag of “#cnnfail.” Consequently or coincidentally, CNN began to air a significantly larger amount on the details of the Iran election and Iran public opinion stories in the following days. The media have finally picked up what Twitter has thrown down.
According to Time Magazine, Iran officials reached out to Twitter and asked them to delay an upgrade that was scheduled for Monday night to protect the interests of the Iranians who use Twitter to protest the presidential election. Twitter was not made to be in the midst of political turmoil, rather for social networking and entertainment yet suddenly it has to worry about being suppressed by the Iranian government? Now that’s a responsibility.
Time Magazine says that Twitter has become the “medium of the moment,” boasting qualities that the everyday American wants and needs: free, easy, quick, personal and highly mobile. These qualities also make Twitter the perfect medium of mass political movement; it’s easy for the average person to use and very hard for the government to control.
So why is Twitter the ideal medium from all the others? The others don’t serve as a newscast. Time Magazine states, “The same might be true of e-mail and Facebook, but those media aren’t public. They don’t broadcast, as Twitter does.” With American mainstream media and government controlling what each citizen hears and sees, the public is yearning for a genuine and real news outlet. This isn’t just occurring in the American Twitterverse, the Iranian Twitterverse is booming with personal stories from those directly involved in the political turmoil. Would CNN disclose those stories? Highly doubtful.
Although large political protests usually don’t start via Twitter, this online platform has shown the potential to spread the emotionally charged political word to those outside of the country and gather the public in a fight against political injustice. As Time Magazine states, “there’s no question that it has emboldened the protesters, reinforced their conviction that they are not alone and engaged populations outside Iran in an emotional, immediate way that was never possible before.”
Twitter continues to prove its potential to change society with each day, just ask Iran.