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The #Hashtag Revolution

The #Hashtag Revolution

By Geeta Spolia 

The first tweet ever was posted on March 21, 2006. It belonged to a man called Jack Dorsey and simply read, ‘just setting up my twittr’.

At the time, it would have probably escaped Dorsey’s imagination that in doing so he was laying the poorly punctuated foundations of a company that would one day have an expected revenue figure of nearly $400, 000, 000. Twitter, the online social networking service, was then a fledgling concept; an idea taken from life, that developed in creator and co-founder Dorsey’s mind, that went on to change the way the world would from then on communicate, forever.

Today, Twitter has 554, 750, 000 active registered users and has, on an average, 58 million tweets uploaded onto it, each day. When did Twitter amass this popularity? If asked to estimate the exact moment, one can only think of the Egyptian revolution of 2011, which led to the end of emergency in Egypt and the oppressive Hosni Mubarak regime. In the run up to the resignation of the president, nearly 2, 00, 000 tweets about the revolution were posted from within Egypt and around the world. The platform assisted Egyptian activists in organizing themselves, vocalizing their demands, documenting developments and gathering global interest and scrutiny. The whole world followed the hashtags #egypt and #Jan25 with bated breath and clung onto the real time updates coming out of the country. Reactions from foreign governments, media, world organizations, non-governmental organizations and citizens poured in on Twitter. The world had witnessed the power of social media for the first time and was feverishly rejoicing in it.

What makes Twitter tick? Simply stated, Twitter users are people who enjoy communicating. Then again, this is true of all of humankind. Human beings, no matter who they are otherwise, have one thing in common- the need for social visibility and the need to have a voice. While not every person networks as much some others, most people want to build relationships, and communicative relationships in particular with other people. Twitter as a platform for conversation provides exactly this. It assembles an enormous body of opinion and relays it across people, countries and continents. It is the starkest manifestation of the new globalized world order that transcends nearly every kind of demarcation imaginable. Views, ideas and opinions are released, consumed and regurgitated through tweets that often also contain links to articles, blogposts, pictures and videos. The website almost feels alive in the manner that real time interactions flow through it ceaselessly, twenty-four hours a day. What also makes it work is the way it has transformed traditional blogging. It is convenient to broadcast your views in short, crisp messages to an active, receptive audience that yields almost instantaneous reactions. What one is doing when posting a tweet, is a lot more layered than it appears to be. Tweeting is as political an activity today as it is social, with each tweet and retweet subtly determining your position on the political spectrum, your preferences and your biases.

For the politician, Twitter is the means to gauge the pulse of the people and perhaps the cheapest, most immediate and most effective campaigning tool. Barack Obama was personally active on the forum during his campaign prior to the elections of November 2012, and continues to be, to this today. His victory tweet saw 796, 865 retweets, and is the most popular tweet to have ever been posted. Nearer home, politicians from the incumbent government and the opposition regularly take to Twitter, in an effort to harness the power of its ever-burgeoning numbers. Entire social media strategies are now designed to propel campaigns, particularly when elections are around the corner. The positives of this development include the spread of activism in an otherwise armchair-happy nation, particularly among the youth. The younger people of the country are perhaps informed and mobilized like they never have been before. The demand for more information, the thirst for knowledge, and the need to question are on a continuous rise. For the businessman, there isn’t a more public, more current or more quantifiable medium for product launches and advertising campaigns. The unbroken link between the industry and the market, that has been conspicuously absent for so long, has been established. For entertainers, stardom has never been so deeply glorious and amplified as now, with fans quite literally hanging onto their every last word. And perhaps no other group has taken to Twitter like the media. News creation and broadcasting today runs like a well-oiled machine, and Twitter is the irreplaceable cog in that machine.

The success of Twitter lies in the small things. Whether it is its simple, clean and uniform design or the 140-character limit that ensures a neat and structured interface, the general feel of Twitter is very appealing. Twitter constantly adapts to the needs of people and organizations, and makes what they say the focus of Twitter, which creates an almost addictive feeling of respect. It creates, fuels and reinvents debate constantly, taking into account changes as they happen. In an age when what happened a week ago is already old news and always being in the know is crucial, Twitter gives the world real-time sharing.

The Internet is already a fascinating place, but Twitter has revolutionized the experience of being online and taken it to lengths never imagined before.

The author is a writer, researcher and travel blogger. She is a graduate in political science from Hindu College, University of Delhi. She is currently working for Mr. Arun Sharma, education consultant and author. She is an AIESEC alumna, and has held leadership positions in Corporate Communications and Information Management in her term. She is interested in and wants to pursue a management career in corporate social responsibility. She can be reached at [email protected]

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