It was exactly a decade ago on this day in 2007 that I published my first ‘tweet’, without the slightest clue as to what I was signing up for except that it was known as a ‘microblogging’ website because it allowed you to publish your thoughts in 140 characters in comparison to a standard blog post. I soon realised, this platform called ‘Twitter’ challenged my creative limits to produce noteworthy but short-lived content in a shorter span of time. It had an informal design set up yet a distinctive personality, but most importantly it brought me closer to like-minded individuals from around the globe. They were known as ‘followers’ whom I ‘followed’ and virtually befriended, some of whom I was lucky to have personally met while in India. Speaking of creativity, an enthused generation of users also developed an inane vocabulary to describe activities with passion such as coming up with terms like ‘twitterverse’ (twitter+universe), ‘tweeple’ (other Twitter users), or ‘tweetups’ (meetups of Twitter users). Back then it didn’t feel that way, but Twitter spurred the imagination of a silent generation to come out fearlessly & communicate and it diminished cultural and geographical distances to unite egalitarian forces.
Being naive and completely unbeknownst, this was my foray into what the world has come to newly identify as ‘social media’ or ‘social networking’. Though about 60K tweets later I don’t recollect the exact background behind my first tweet, or perhaps it made more sense to just half-introduce me.
I am working as a Usability Analyst, enjoying my life and clicking pictures.
— Bhooshan Pandya (@Bhooshan) May 18, 2007
The Memory Lane
Soon after, Twitter became my primary medium to connect with individuals and gather information online as I began tweeting innocuous updates regularly. Much harder as it seems for us to imagine, I’ve had some wonderful conversations with absolutely unknown people on this very platform until it became predominantly obsessed with broadcasting outrage some of which is quite bizarre in content. Those were also the days when ‘retweeting’ was accomplished by adding ‘RT’ before the user’s tweet, generally preceding with our opinionated message until Twitter officially invented the feature of retweeting which accelerated the spread of ideas and opinions across millions of users.
I also remember experimenting with Twitter’s user interface using third-party services such as ‘Themeleon’ for designing my profile page. On the other hand the influx of desktop & mobile apps such as Dabr, DestroyTwitter, Tweetie and Tweetdeck – the last two were eventually purchased by Twitter kept me closer to my audience with its colourful UI presentation. In reality, with a variety of such beautiful apps around it’s become rare to visit the website nowadays! While checking tweets has become kind of an every day ritual like catching up with updates from my city or the industry or reading about a personal achievement or tragedy from an unknown source not a day goes by without glancing at the timeline!
How Has Twitter Evolved (Me)
Just as the Internet has evolved with its consumers, Twitter too seems less like a social networking site today and has become more of an aggregator of news and alternative ideas. Additionally, it’s an important crucible for net neutrality activism, a discussion board for subject matter experts from wide ranging topics for sharing ideas, and for the free speech advocates it’s a springboard to reach out to the masses in reporting human rights violations globally & debating the consequences. In the midst of all such uprisings, upheavals, and unmaskings, Twitter has gradually transformed itself into a practical alternative to Google as a search engine using the ‘hashtag’ feature I could accumulate raw knowledge and expertise within specified areas. Besides, with the expansion of the ‘Verified Account’ feature (you remember the blue tick on your DP) it has provided a much needed credibility to its commonplace users in recognition of the value of their profile and the quality of tweets.
Thank You Twitter!
Over the last few years I’m left befuddled at the exponential growth of Twitter. With the free flow of knowledge and diverse opinions that it has come to embody I continue to question my personal contribution to this edifice of democratic values. How do I enable this online revolution to succeed or what should be my level of commitment in encouraging authenticity even as anonymous, faceless individuals misuse the platform with their malicious and abusive content.
I’d only say that ‘Liking’ someone’s thoughts or retweeting (not endorsing perhaps) an enlightening tweet marks a considerable effort while staying connected with events of the real world and supporting ingenuity, at the same time spreading awareness across with myriad followers. After a decade of endless exchanges of notes with strangers, following & unfollowing countless people, outraging and ranting over political disagreements, and so on, I have to say ‘thank you Twitter’ for bringing the world to me. I truly appreciate it, and here’s looking forward to many more decades of tweeting!