Twitter a New Direction for Social Media

On: October 10, 2009
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About Albert Cornelissen
Student of the master New Media at the Universiteit van Amsterdam (UvA).


 Twitter has grown exponentially the last two years and is most apparent in the use of the service by celebrities. No other internet application can count on the massive participation of public figures. Ashton Kutcher, Al Gore, Britney Spears, Stephen Fry and even Dutch politicians use the text messaging application. Why the hell the interest?

Well, the general appeal is greatly influenced by its concept of short text messaging, comparable to text messaging with cell phones. Instead of sending a message to another phone, you send a message into the world wide web, where it is easily accessible. There are many articles on our addiction to texting, which with the universal character of Twitter enhances.

The other major appeal of Twitter concerning its function as a status symbol is the distinction between ‘followers’ and ‘following’. The former are the users of Twitter that subscribe to your account, the latter the users you have subscribed to. The ingenuity is the relationship between these two groups: they are not dependent on each other. With other social networks, like Facebook, you can only become friend by connecting two accounts. With Twitter there is the possibility to have users following your account, but yourself not following these users.

This makes room for users to have a huge amount of followers, while following a substantial smaller amount of people. The more followers, the more status one can require. This is enhanced by the word ‘followers’ and the more open character of the service. Connections on Twitter are of course partly made by offline connections, but a significant amount is made by finding the tweets of a user interesting or useful. So a user becomes a follower because of the messages of a user instead of other connections (with exceptions off course).

Websites have caught on to the status of followers and lists with celebrity Twitter pages are hard to avoid when searching with keyword ‘twitter’. This is a total different direction for social media, where building up and maintaining a network is seen by many as a positive thing. Stepping away from celebrities, other groups talk about Twitter and the status of followers. TwittermMom Lyn Metller argues for an active attitude towards scooping in followers, which for future employers can give an insight into your influence and network.

Twitter marks a new direction for social media, one where public networks of followers give a use status. Celebrities are the prime example, but even TwitterMoms recognize this development.

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