A group of university students head down to the Peanut Barrel for drinks on Thursday night. They discuss the Spartans’ chances at the Final Four. (Oh Duke, you’re too good. Coach K can leave to the Nets now.) Someone pays a guy $5 to shoot ketchup down his throat. Old friends and acquaintances awkwardly run into each other on one party’s obvious date. But the most passionate and heated conversation was surprisingly about Twitter.
Yes, Twitter has arrived. Not in the sense that The Today Show is parading outside showing the crowd funny tweets, or Jon Stewart is hilariously ranting about the “phenomenon,” or that CNN is using obscure tweets to confirm a breaking new story. It’s all been done . . . and a year ago.
Twitter is finally reaching that one audience. These are the people who learned about Twitter on a news report or read about a celebrity tweet in People just a few months ago. These are the people that believed that the concept of reading people’s updates narcissistic and ridiculous. They fought long and hard, fervently arguing with anyone who tried to explain Twitter as a useful social media platform.
The guys at our table rolled their eyes as we checked our Facebook and Twitter updates on our phones.
“You’ll get one in about 6 weeks. Mark my words,” said my friend.
It was four against three. I should disclose the four of us were all communication or advertising majors and the guys engineering and social science focused. However, I don’t think our majors today would be a heavy factor in deciding to use Twitter or not.
It’s about that time when everybody realizes Twitter has made it. It’s about that time when changes and improvements are needed that will separate Twitter as a passing fad and trend to a truly lasting and remarkable form of social media. I’m not arguing if social media is here to stay. It is here to stay, but it will
look differently in the years to come. But right now, the crucial question is how it will stay relevant and useful to us? What separates MySpace and Twitter?
Two freshman I know entered the world of Twitter today. One said she felt like a senior citizen when it came to Twitter. She was completely unaware about my joke using hashtags and pleaded for my help to better understand the mysterious, complicated world of Twitter. Neither of them have posted many tweets and their following list consists mostly of popular celebrities like Conan O’Brien and Justin Bieber. Will they use Twitter the way I use it? Will they use it to follow real-time breaking news? Will they use the search engine to follow specific events and conferences? Will they use it to voice their opinions? Perhaps they will use it the way I and many people in the public relations and advertising industry do.
It’s unfortunate that I’m throwing those freshmen into this category, but they simply arrived at the same time as the “unwanted” Twitter user. They’re usually last to arrive, and suddenly, Twitter seems uncool. It seems as though it’s constantly marked by problems and annoyances. Twitter has arrived at its crucial point. Sink or float . . . or chirp successfully away as a golden standard for social media. There are too many tweets and suddenly the user you were following for the Academy Awards is gone because a blue “fail whale” carried by chirping birds signifies that the Twitter server is down, flooded with too many messages to handle. You look at your home page and all the tweets are posted by that one, annoying user. Your search results yield a bunch of spam tweets. Oh, look! Justin Bieber is 3 out of the 10 trending topics. Or worse, the top five trending topics are stupid phrases like #boysliewhen and #Hollaifyogirlahoe (Also highly inappropriate, but what exactly is the age limit for Twitter? You would think pre-teens with Justin Bieber trending every day, but then you learn the median age of a Twitter user is 31. You then realize how much more scared you are for society.).
Nick Bilton of the New York Times pleaded for filters to ensure that Twitter remains as relevant and addictive as it is today. Some phone applications already have features that filter certain phrases or hashtags. How do you control the flow of information on a microblogging network that is renowned for open flow of tweets at a rapidly fast and real-time pace?
Twitter, you have certainly arrived. But will you be staying?