Twitter has been ever present in my life since I found out what a smart phone was. Alongside an AR night sky app, it was one of the first apps I downloaded. Getting excited about apps like this led me to become an app developer.
My current Twitter account is new (follow me, I need those follows). I deleted my old one by taking a month out of social media back in January 2021 and having my account deleted (oops!) Regardless, for me, Twitter is technology.
You can imagine how excited I have been to join the company as an Android developer. I’m working on the team responsible for Twitter Blue. We are a small cog in the machine trying to de-couple Twitter from advertising money.
Since joining, I’ve been thinking about the place Twitter has had in my life so far. A 10+ year relationship with an app is not something to turn your nose at after all.
I’ve met friends on Twitter some of whom have moved into “IRL”, as the kids say. I’ve learned about new technologies on Twitter and it has directed my career.
Twitter has had a large impact on my world view. To me, despite the platforms issues, this makes it important. I’ve tried to convert some thoughts into words on this topic:
Video footage of the aftermath of Sully Sullenberger landing an A320 into the Hudson is a landmark event on Twitter. It is the first time a normal (non-journalist) broke a huge story on the platform.
This happened before I joined Twitter, I don’t remember finding out about it on there. I do remember the discussions of citizen journalists. That is something that sticks in my head.
Over the next decade I have consumed more and more news through the platform. I remember a lot of things vividly as the happened during my late-teens up to my mid-twenties.
I remember the Arab Springs. From: images of Mohamed Bouazizi; the Jasmine revolution; protest and celebration in Tahrir Square, and the horrors of Syria. I would “excitedly” refresh Twitter for developments as the Arab world turned to night.
It took me time to mature and to learn before I understood what happened in the Springs. A lot of this learning happened from news and opinions shared on Twitter.
I’ve started to see Twitter as a platform that can help a normal person share their voice.
I remember scrolling through the Tweets of a man in Pakistan. He complained of noise from helicopters and cars driving recklessly through the night. He even mentioned a helicopter crash! Late in the day I’d discover he was live Tweeting the culmination of the hunt for Bin Laden. I found this man’s profile because other people shared his Tweets.
I also remember seeing Barack Obama’s “Four more years” Tweet. At the time it was the most retweeted Tweet of all time. Seeing those numbers made me realise the power of the moment and how many people cared.
Even more recently, I was blown away by the importance of Twitter. Indian doctors used the platform to find crucial oxygen to keep Covid patients alive. This by the way is bad, but having a platform to enable this in the worst of times is important.
There are so many huge events that I have consumed through Twitter. Charlie Hebdo, the London Bridge & Westminster terror attacks, protests in Hong Kong, Brexit and Trump’s election. There are so many other things I remember Twitter for. But it is the breaking news events that stick out to me.
These events all prove to me the importance of Twitter as a tool to create and share world changing events. We just have to look at the negative impact large platforms (maybe.. too large?) just disappearing for a day can have on the world. For example, in South America.
There is an uncomfortable downside to this. Social media is used for wrong. Social media platforms have come under close scrutiny for events like the genocide of the Rohyinga in Myanmar. Can exponential growth always be good if it means we can’t keep pace?
Away from the global stage. The platform has problems with racism, sexism and outright threats of violence (to name a few). Often threats from normal people to other normal people. I’d attribute this to hiding behind usernames, but the same still happens on Facebook (and 99% of accounts spreading racism after the Euro 2020s were real names!!!). I struggle to wrap my head around what people say and do on the internet.
I like to wax lyrical about the importance of Twitter on the global stage. But, a huge blind spot for me is the downside Twitter has on normal every day people. Since joining, I’ve found so much motivation from interacting to smart people trying to solve these problems.
Along the way.. it is good to not lose touch of what Twitter is. It’s a website and social media platform. I’m also an Android developer. Can’t change anything in the world.
Anyway, I’m not sure what the conclusion of this is. But I’m really excited to be working somewhere I think is important on a platform that I know impacts real people’s lives and I wanted to capture that in words.