Posted by: paulacunniffe | 09/19/2010

Twitter – you are what you tweet!

As I began to think about this week’s assignment a Twitter-related story gained much media attention on my side of the pond. A member of Parliament (from the opposition party) tweeted that the Irish Prime Minister sounded ‘somewhere between drunk and hungover’ in a radio interview with the national Irish broadcaster.

I have no interest in politics but, having heard about this story, decided to follow politicians for this assignment, in the secret hope someone else would say something controversial. However, I found it hard to find a politics list that I wanted to follow. After one day of reading about what ‘great work’ all the politicians were doing I decided to change topics and follow a news list.

I found the whole experience overwhelming. Following news outlets was not an easy task, primarily because they are constantly tweeting. They also always link back to their own website, so I could have spent all day reading articles on BBC News, or CNN, or NY Times to name but a few. Phew, it was tiring! I found the tweets to be informative – just like news headlines with very little opinion, although one of the users in my list (who I was not following) did use it as a PR tool.

Shepherd shows some disdain for Twitter in her comments about it being obsessed with US celebrities, using terms like ‘cultural narcissism’ and ‘Twitter’s collusion with the US celebrity landscape’ (p 156). There are apparently 106 million users on Twitter. She is pigeonholing Twitter as a platform by ignoring its use as more than just a celebrity promotion tool.

Her point about the Iranian election being quickly superseded by a celebrity story did not surprise me. Does trending not always change rapidly? The people I followed this week were tweeting every 30 minutes. With such a huge flow of tweets surely it changes often?

The Iranian example of citizen journalism is not an isolated case. In the UK, the Trafigura scandal was broken on Twitter; a couple of weeks ago the story of a gunman at the Discovery Channel’s HQ was also broken on Twitter. So Twitter is being used for more than boosting Ashton Kutcher’s celebrity persona.

I read diverse stories from Europe, the Middle East, USA and UK. There were stories about soccer matches, British and American politics, breaking news on a tornado in NY and shootings at a German hospital to name but a few. The news outlets were tweeting so often that it was impossible not to have diverse subject matter in the tweets.

My experience of Twitter this week was that yes, celebrities may have the most followers but there are SO many people on Twitter that you can steer away from them, if you want. The news outlets I followed did tweet some celebrity stories but it was not the dominant topic. They covered sports, politics and breaking news stories as well. I think you can find diverse viewpoints on Twitter if you want to. Just take the example at the top of this post. You do not expect an MP to say something like that about his boss!

Here I am on Twitter: @pcunniffe




  2. Being obsessed with US celebrities, that doesn’t mean users on Twitter are shallow, and it doesn’t olnly happen on Twitter, I’m sure celebrities have much more visitors or followers or whatever on their pages on other networking websites than others. And I think it’s not just in US, it’s a worldwide thing. If Sheperd wants to see a serious discussion platform, or all users only focus on political events, she probably should target somewhere else.

  3. Wow, thanks for that great link! What big numbers for Twitter use!

    Excellent post!

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