By Chad Bilyeu*
As a self-proclaimed “social media strategist” I have found that the one social media tool that baffles people the most is definitely Twitter. “What is Twitter? It’s just the status update from Facebook, right?” While that is probably the most simplistic manner of giving some sort of definition to the amorphous service that is Twitter, the most honest answer would be, “Whatever you want it to be.” This is probably a very disappointing answer that will leave many ambiguous, but herein lies the beauty of Twitter.
There is a rather popular saying in the United States, “preaching to the choir,” which refers to the action of telling people what they already know. To a great degree, Facebook is limited in its scope to this cliche. While Facebook is indeed the most popular of all the social media channels, most Facebook timelines are comprised of information procured from individuals or entities that the subscriber is already privy to.
Twitter, on the other hand, allows more freedom in examining and subscribing to timelines. A person doesn’t even need to be a registered Twitter-user to read an open Twitter account. There is no need to actually know a person, you can simply “follow” their timeline and instantly become one with their thoughts.
As I stated earlier, Twitter is whatever you want it to be. Although Twitter can initially seem as if it is mainly comprised of people that think it edifying to others to tweet about Justin Bieber or arriving at their respective houses, it can be and has been used for greater causes. The recent uprising in Egypt serves as an example. One of the regimes first actions against the protesters was to shut off all access to the Internet. The regime’s fear of the net underlines the fact that social media, when used in a collaborative method, can be far more effective than relying on traditional media methods and sources to get the story. In particular, I believe that Twitter, with it’s 140-character limit, accentuates the beauty in brevity and lessens the chance of a story or emotion getting garbled due to long-windedness.
So, I challenge people, especially us fortunate enough to live in modern, democratic societies, to actually expand upon the rudimentary Twitter query of “What’s happening?” It may be true that you’re sitting at your desk, contemplating what you want for lunch, but how necessary is this for others to know? Couldn’t you make more of this international voice that you know have access to? Let’s try and use social media as a beacon for change rather than a reinforcement of inactivity.
*Chad is media strategist and social media expert at VJ Movement. He graduated with a bachelors degree in American Studies from Georgetown University. To better understand the European opinion of America, he moved to the Netherlands to further study American Studies. He has been living here ever since. His passions include writing, photography and when possible, traveling. – @CHADinAMSTERDAM