The Twitter Takeover

 The Twitter Takeover

By: Michelle Soto

Social media has created a structure of communication in society today. The ability to communicated with people in various locations of the world on multiple platforms and networks, has rearranged the idea of interaction between one another. The more popular of social network sites include Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter. No longer are these platforms for interaction between friends, family members, coworkers, and acquaintances, but the increase in interaction between notable figures and celebrities and the everyday user has increased in the last few years.

Twitter has become the primary forum for such interaction. A quick overview of how Twitter is setup comes with the understanding of the features it includes. For example, the options to view a post and either favorite,reply, retweet, and/or quote are basic, yet very fundamental. The act of messaging or posting a Tweet is constructed in the limit of 140 characters. Users can also include pictures, videos, and hyperlinks to their tweets as they would on other sources of communication.  Once the tweet is posted, it will appear in a timeline where other tweets posted by the user and those who they choose to follow are visible and functioning for potential interaction. One feature that Twitter brought attention to was the “hashtag.” Formally known to many as the number sign or the pound button on our phones, Twitter reinvented what this symbol had the power to do. Users can hashtag a word or phrase allowing other viewers to access the newly formed trending topic. For example, during award shows,sporting events, series premieres and finales, etc., where millions of viewers are actively watching and participating in a worldwide conversation, they will often end their tweet with a hashtag of the named event. Here is a visual of a trending topic,#GoodbyeBreakingBad, during the Breaking Bad series finale on September 29, 2013 (Note: the trending topic is still active as people continue to use the hashtag, although the topic itself is no longer a popular trend:

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Twitter has approximately 218 million users to date. A fraction of these users consist of celebrities and notable figures, such as political figures, government officials, actors, musicians, artists, etc. On a daily basis, users can interact with these high profile people through mentions, replies, retweets, and the hashtag. The high volume of these tweets often go unnoticed, but there is also the possibility of receiving some recognition for these high profile figures. I’ve had the privilege of interacting with a few of my favorite celebrities. Through replies and retweets, I’ve felt a more stable connection with them that I normally would not be able to establish without the open platform of Twitter. Most recently, during a public access Q&A with the cast of Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black known as “Visiting Hours”, I had the opportunity to interact with the star of the show, Taylor Schilling. Included below is a screenshot of her reply to my direct tweet to her containing a question about a previous role she had: 2013-08-22 20.55.52

The growth in user participation on Twitter is significant and parallels the growth in technology throughout society.  Users determine how much information they supply to their Twitter profile. They are in charge of who they follow and ultimately who follows them. Although there are certain restrictions and limitations of text and file size upload, the user virtually has majority of the control on their communication and interaction access. Relating back to Kylie Jarrett’s article “Interactivity is Evil! A critical investigation of Web 2.0”, the relationship between the user and the power they possess in social context is complicated. More and more the user is gaining more power and authority over their social identity. By gaining access to celebrities tweets and interacting with high-profile figures, the user places themselves in a higher position in the social hierarchy. As mentioned in the article, intensive use of technology led to a positive effect on the user’s individual self-esteem. Sometimes there is a negative effect to this newfound power that many users believe they possess. Vicious textual attacks towards other users and high-profile figures, protests, boycotts, political activism, and the worst, death threats are common in the world of Twitter due to the open accessibility in participation and interaction with one another. Late night television host Jimmy Kimmel took to Twitter to find some of the nasty and negative tweets many Twitter users were sending to particular celebrities. This YouTube clip below features the individual celebrities reading these direct offenses and reacting:

Kimmel made light of the situation and many of the celebrities featured in the videos seem to pay little mind to the issue, but the fact that there is an issue sparks many researchers to investigate.

Twitter does have its benefit though. Twitter provides a worldwide connection that many other social networking sites do not. Users interact on this small platform through their computers, tablets, phones, video game consoles, and now with the evolution of television sets, their SmartTVs. 140 characters creates a relationship with other users in a way that physical interaction may not. The reality of interacting with celebrities creates a confidence in users and bridges the gap between an film actor and the moviegoer, the athlete and the fan, the president and the citizen, and the musician and the listener. The advances in technology continue to provide more access to interaction on a global spectrum through social networking and Twitter is continuously expanding and improving with the technology.

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