Since being created in 2006, Twitter has acquired over 500 million users writing approximately 6,000 tweets per second. Being a quick and easy way to instantly communicate with friends, it’s a handy tool to look into the lives of celebrities without getting a restraining order. But as social media expands so rapidly through so many platforms, the ‘rules’ on the politics and ethics are becoming distinctly blurred. Social media is obviously a very powerful device, but should we worry about the way it is being used?
While Twitter is mainly a way to follow and communicate with your favourite celebrities, there is definitely a dark side to the website. It won’t take you long to think of famous faces who have received inappropriate comments on the internet. Back in 2013, Caroline Criado-Perez successfully campaigned for more women to feature on banknotes, yet this resulted in her receiving a multitude of rape and death threats from complete strangers. Caitlyn Jenner, who featured on Vanity Fair this year after completing her gender transition, was subject to many cruel insults from the public, and Barack Obama, the most powerful man in the USA, has even received frequent and detailed descriptions of how people will assassinate him.
Even though some of these threats and insults may not be serious, and the celebrities may not even be bothered, it is very disturbing to see Twitter used in a way to cause others harm. Yes, stalkers have always existed, but social media gives a platform to directly channel this sort of behaviour. Worse still, is that they can remain completely anonymous and unaccountable for their actions, which is why the trend is multiplying so ferociously. Even celebrities themselves are not completely innocent of this behaviour, often picking a fight and exchanging harsh words with rivals online.
As an outlet for people to air their dirty laundry, celebrities and civilians alike use Twitter heavily to engage in arguments. And even though it’s incredibly hard to convey tone when you don’t have a voice or any body language, people still jump to Twitter as a vessel to address their point. Twitter has the ability to turn anyone at all into a smartphone soldier, and celebrities are no exception. The media’s attention was firmly grasped over the summer when Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj exchanged words over VMA nominations. What proceeded to happen rivalled an argument common to a 13-year-old, with both defending themselves against insults that were never even stated. And these two are not the only celebrities taking to the internet to engage in a war of words, with popular cases being Perez Hilton who has made comments on pretty much every celebrity under the sun, and the ever-spiteful Katie Hopkins is never shy to cast judgements on anyone in the spotlight.
But it’s important to remember that not everyone is completely psychotic over the internet, and Twitter has many qualities that make it enjoyable for public and celebrity alike. Many of its popular users often banter with their trolls in a way that is harmless and entertaining. Anyone who has seen James Blunt’s account knows he can throw some serious shade at anyone who tries to put him down and JK Rowling is also another amazing example of quick wit and comebacks for anyone daring enough to attempt offend her. These guys don’t care, showing that not every exchange over Twitter needs be spiteful.
But it’s ever clear that Twitter’s name is only growing and growing. With businesses having customer service teams able to tweet help to customers, news organisations delivering news segments in 140 character posts, and every known figure, be they celebrity or ordinary folk, having an account to publish their innermost thoughts, Twitter is now a social media staple in everyday life. Of course there are ways to use it for the greater good, such as the popularity of feminist movement Everyday Sexism, an account made to educate and inform rather than argue or insult. Educative movements are surging in fame on newsfeeds, with university lecturers often encouraging students to follow their profile for additional reading sources, something not possible before the emergence of the little blue bird. Yes, it’s very easy to become a slave to the gossip trail which will always be a prominent factor of Twitter, but so many additional parts are being included turning it into a site with a great deal of information that can be gathered.
So while the keyboard warriors and online educators take to the internet to let the world know what they have to say, most newsfeeds are still going to be full of photos of Nandos meals and angsty indirect jibes. Yes, it can be abused, and yes, it’s probably not the best platform to fully explain ourselves, but as a contender for the number one most popular social networking site, it’s clear that Twitter has a lot of power for influencing public thought. So it must be fair to say that we care about twitter because we want our opinion out there and to be part of the bigger picture, something which may be unlikely online, but impossible without it.