I first learned of the horrific events in Norway yesterday not through traditional media channels but, as is so often the case nowadays, Twitter. I immediately went to the BBC and then The Guardian websites for additional information but, finding only a placeholder news story with minimal information, returned to the social networking site where I was able to immediately find first hand accounts of what had occurred and immediate reaction from a variety of different people. Twitter has changed, and continues to change, the means of people being able to distribute news and opinion. Old media simply cannot compete and this is why I love Twitter.
At first I was sceptical of the medium. I didn’t understand the appeal of something that restricted you to just 140 characters (including spaces). How limiting, how frustrating, I thought. But in many ways this is actually quite liberating. You soon become adept at distilling your thoughts, Haiku-style, into concise and neat little packages. Even better, you do, over time, link up with other like-minded people and you soon find you have a nice little (virtual) community to interact with and share interesting things. Unlike, say, Facebook, where you generally connect with people that you know in real life yet it somehow manages to be excruciatingly dull. It has been said that Twitter connects you to people that you don’t really know but should, while Facebook keeps you in contact with people that you do really know but perhaps shouldn’t.
As ever, there are tedious naysayers who dismiss the entire thing. Here’s Rod Liddle being typically contemptuous of something he clearly does not understand. Or John Humphrys, another curmudgeon who simply does not get it. You’d think, as journalists, they’d be able to easily grasp the potential of such a powerful and simple tool to disseminate ideas and opinions, but no, they join in with the rest of the clueless who think it’s just a load of people saying what they had for breakfast. Well, I dare say a lot of people do use it in this way – I wouldn’t know as I only follow people who interest or intrigue me (or, occasionally, I follow people for sheer curiosity value – there are some bizarre people out there). Accusing Twitter of being a platform for banality is pointless. Banality exists wherever groups of people might assemble: the trick, as with any social gathering, is to weed out the boring, stupid and ignorant and seek out the clever, witty and interesting. It may take a while to find them at first, but they are out there.
By the way, should you be wondering, I had Eggs Royale for breakfast.