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March 21st, 2011
05:40 PM ET

Twitter: Five Years On

To tweet or not to tweet? Well, when you work on a show with the tagline “Where News and Technology Meet”, it seems pretty apt to give it a go. So, Happy Birthday, Twitter. Here's to the next five years!

I ought to confess that I didn’t really “get” Twitter before the launch of News Stream. I didn’t even attempt to.  From a news perspective, a site on which Lady Gaga (self-proclaimed gay – but not gay – icon, purveyor of occasionally catchy music), Justin Bieber (hair icon, purveyor of perpetually dismal music) and Britney Spears (comedy icon, purveyor of largely unintentional entertainment) command more followers than the U.S. President, it hardly seemed necessary.

But I eventually took the plunge and I don’t regret it. Yes, there’s dross. A lot of it, in fact. But the ability to choose what you consume on the site is its great advantage. News outlets (CNN among them) are tremendous sources of semi-immediate information. Newsmakers around the world update you on their thoughts, hopes and fears in times of jubilation and crisis. And the “trending” facility lets you know what people actually care about (in a world where too few have traditionally decided on behalf of too many what a headline story ought to be).

Those are the work-beneficial reasons. But Twitter has its personal perks. TV stations and magazines give you recaps on shows just after they’ve aired to save you the trouble of watching them. Sports news outlets give you real-time information when you’re out and about, and can’t get to a TV. Comedians make jokes. Kanye West makes a fool of himself. What’s not to like?

For every (unforgivably belated) “Sorry Taylor” that gets inexplicably retweeted tens of thousands of times, there are many more poignant, funny and memorable contributions from people who actually deserve our attention. People who have utilized the site for inspirational, motivational or just downright outrageous reasons.  People like Wael Ghonim during Egypt’s recent uprising (though his recent efforts have sadly succumbed to insipidness). People like Mou Yanxi, whose tweeted support for dissident Liu Xiaobo got her arrested and only highlighted the reasons for his Nobel Peace Prize win. And – forgive me for this – people like John McCain (who can be hilarious without introducing bizarre new composite verbs to the dictionary, Sarah Palin). So, in the words of Mr. West, Imma let those people finish. For they have used Twitter to better ends than I could ever hope to emulate.

Oh – and if you do feel compelled to follow me, I'm @NicolCNN. But don't expect anything earth-shattering. Just the odd bit of rugby reaction and royal wedding ranting. I'll leave the truly revolutionary tweeting to Rihanna...

soundoff (One Response)
  1. Susan Whitbourne

    Readers may be interested in my Psych Today blog on the "Tweets that Bond," showing how Twitter helps us fulfill our need to relate to others: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201103/the-tweets-bond

    I welcome your comments!

    March 22, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Reply

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