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Twitter creates communities

Twitter has evolved beyond its original microblogging platform to become a tool that has spawned real-life communities and interaction, writes Tracy Whitelaw.

With social media predicted to continue its steady rise over the next few years, it’s no surprise that sites like Twitter are showing over a 2000% increase in users since last year.

For those who don’t Tweet on a regular basis, or don’t even understand the concept of Twitter, I implore you to check out the Common Craft “Twitter in Plain English” clip on YouTube. It explains the basics of Twitter in a straight forward way and provides even a total newbie with an insight into what Twitter is all about. 

As helpful as the excellent Common Craft article is, what it doesn’t do is explain that Twitter has become so much more than what its original intention was.

The idea behind Twitter was to micro-blog throughout the day and those who wanted to read and interact with you were able to. Although this is still an essential element of Twitter, it’s evolved into so much more than that, with very real communities forming and interacting on a regular basis. Perhaps one of the most common examples of this is how Twitter is creating a number of TV related communities that allow fans of particular shows to debate and discuss the intricacies of each episode. 

Twitter TV

The Twitter TV phenomenon has no exact origin, but seems to be very grassroots in conception. Twitter users started to tweet about the shows they loved and by using hashtags (tags that show the subject of a post i.e. #idol, #trueblood), it meant that other people could easily find these discussions and join in. From there, it’s almost like a Twitter TV Tweeting explosion (try saying that fast when under the influence) has occurred. Twitter has become an online community for discussion, news, debate and so much more.

The entire experience of watching TV has now become more interactive than ever before. Individuals from all over the country are able to enjoy a shared experience, even if they’re sitting alone in their home. What makes this so special is that it feels like one large community getting together on a regular occasion and true bonds and friendships can be born from it. 

The impact on TV from Twitter is so huge that new TV’s are being designed with the capability to connect to your Twitter account right there on screen – no more laptops or phones out during TV shows is needed. Entertainment studios have realised the value in Twitter, with most major shows now having their own accounts to send out events, updates, sneak peeks and other interaction to keep the fans busy until the next episode of their favourite show airs. The power of Twitter could be seen through the harnessing of human power where fans of TV show Chuck, staged a mass Twitter campaign to get the show saved – it worked. 

There is no doubt that Twitter is a very powerful entertainment tool. Whether it’s being used by fans to generate a community, or by companies to increase interaction with customers, it is the buzz social networking tool of the moment. On a deeper level, it allows people to reach out and bond with others, as the many ‘real-world’ meetups are testament to. 

In the Queensland area of Australia, there are a number of Twitter meetups occurring regularly in Brisbane and other areas. These events known as ‘Btub’ bring together all shapes and sizes of Twitter users, who get together in a social way for a drink and some food. These meetups are extremely popular and bring together people who normally wouldn’t have the chance to interact. Real friendships are born of these meetings, creating a sense of community, involvement and wider outreach in the local area. If you ask most people attending what they get out of the meetups, they’ll tell you “It’s fun”. 

Twitter as an educational and political tool

Within the wider Twitter community, there are a number of diverse subcultures and groups forming also. Although it can be used in a corporate way, for education, government, political groups and others, there are a number of social sub-groups forming also.

One such strong alliance on Twitter is the gay and lesbian movement, with a number of specific community groups forming and reaching out to others. With the option of flagging yourself as gay or gay friendly by using a rainbow coloured flag on your avatar, Twitter users are able to link up with each other for friendship, support and a sense of community.

The psychological impact of this can’t be ignored, particularly in remote areas where so much homophobia and unacceptance still exists. As far as social networking sites go, Twitter seems to be out in front for being the least hateful and homophobic – at the moment anyway. 

Although Twitter’s time is no doubt limited in its appeal and there’s likely ‘the next big thing’ waiting in the wings at the moment, the appeal of Twitter and it’s ability to genuinely link people with others can’t be overlooked. The community feel and enjoyment of shared interaction in the safety of your own home is almost impossible to beat at this level.

The ability to communicate with others in the same situation as you, or who have the experience and knowledge you seek, truly makes Twitter a unique tool for marketing, communicating, advertising and interacting. As communities continue to grow and extend into real-world friendships and partnerships, Twitter has the market cornered as the social media tool of the moment. 

Tracy Whitelaw is a self-proclaimed video-game loving, gadget obsessed, geek girl based on the Gold Coast. Usually found debating pop culture with friends on social networking sites like Twitter or living out fantasies of rock god status on Xbox 360, Tracy is a writer who loves to share her geek love around. Having worked as a freelance writer for over 5 years, you can usually find her taking part in or writing for other lesbian/geek websites. With a diverse professional background including psychology lecturing, management and the creation of artificial intelligence brains, Tracy is interested in connecting with fellow geeks through new technology. 

Of course, this is only when not vegging out with her girlfriend and dogs to watch their fav TV shows on their 100" screen. Some of her favorite websites are: Lesbian Gamers, Lesbian Geek and After Ellen.






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