Ten years ago today, the co-founder and CEO of Twitter Jack Dorsey sent a message which kickstarted Twitter:
It may not be as big as Facebook, but there isn’t a shadow of a doubt Twitter has changed the lives of many in the 10 years it’s been running – for better and worse. Here are just some of the ways Twitter has changed our lives.
Helped people get hired
With some jobs, self promotion can only help. So unsurprisingly, when we asked people (on Twitter, natch) how tweeting changed their lives, many piped up to say they wouldn’t be in their current career without it. Luke Westaway, a senior editor at CNET, said he could thank Twitter for his job:
Twitter more or less got me a job. Back in 2009 I was blogging my socks off and trying to break into tech reporting, and Twitter let me find the journos who’d already made it, follow them, observe their habits and, when I was feeling especially courageous, chime in with polite comments. I used Twitter to get to know people I dreamed of working with, blag my way into industry events, and it gave me a helicopter view of a pretty cliquey industry that I couldn’t have achieved otherwise. I remember using Twitter to take a journo up on a food voucher offer they tweeted, then when we’d sorted it out over DMs, asking for an email address to pitch freelance to. Now I work with that guy at CNET!
… but got others in trouble
Twitter has made it easier than ever to network and get a job. But it’s also made it easier to lose it in just 140 characters. PR executive Justine Sacco lost her job after she wrote a crass tweet linking Aids with race just before boarding an 11-hour flight. While she was in the air, she became infamous and lost her job – all because of a phenomenally stupid tweet.
Changed the way we consume news
Roughly half of Twitter’s American users say they use Twitter for news. But they’re not just getting it from traditional news outlets. When news breaks in places with good mobile connections, often you can find out exactly what’s happening on the ground via Twitter. This happened during the Boston Marathon bombing, the Arab Spring and last year’s Paris attacks.
While it has been an invaluable tool for journalists covering such breaking news, it’s also brought problems with graphic content which will inevitably surface in the event of an attack. One disturbing example of this came last year, when two Virginia TV journalists were shot live on air. The gunman also posted his own video on Twitter and Facebook.
… and changed what makes the news
Ten years ago, if someone told you people would be writing articles about hundreds and thousands of people watching a livestream of a puddle, you’d probably think they were making it up. Despite constant calls of “that’s not news”, viral moments have become just that. From #thedress to #thestory, Twitter amplifies these trends to the point they end up in newspapers. Welcome to 2016!
Made random people internet famous
The life cycle of a Twitter meme mainly happens as follows: teen does tweet, tweet goes viral, subject of said tweet ends up on the Ellen show. The cycle continues. That’s what happened to Alex Lee, aka “Alex from Target”, who became famous because someone tweeted a picture of him at his workplace. It also happened to Daniel Lara, the teen star of 2016’s biggest viral video so far.
… also made random animals internet famous
It’s the internet, so, obviously. There’s your usual cute animal novelty accounts, but there are also more unlikely stars like the Toronto raccoon. Essentially, a dead raccoon was left on a sidewalk in Toronto. When it wasn’t picked up by council workers, people created a mini memorial for it, which went viral on Twitter. Did we mention this stuff is a bit weird sometimes?
Brought the rise of ‘hashtag activism’
The phrase “hashtag activism” is sometimes used to put down those who campaign on social media, but internet-savvy campaigners have used Twitter to great success over the past decade. One of the most recent examples comes from #BlackLivesMatter, who have used the hashtag to campaign against violence towards black people, creating a new civil rights movement. The hashtag began in 2013, after George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old Zimmerman fatally shot. The campaign quickly moved from social media to the streets, with demonstrations which have made headlines worldwide.
Made social media stars of some politicians
Some politicians have taken to Twitter like a duck to water. Barack Obama once had the most retweeted tweet of all time, before Ellen DeGeneres unseated him with the Oscars selfie to end all selfies. Others managed to become Twitter heroes accidentally. Former shadow chancellor Ed Balls is likely to never forget the day he inadvertently tweeted his own name:
The anniversary of this tweet has now become a sort-of Twitter holiday, with everyone tweeting Ed Balls at 4.20pm precisely.
Made social media outcasts of other politicians
David Cameron once said “too many tweets might make a twat”. While he’s since joined the social network, you can see why he may wish he hadn’t, given his every tweet is met with abuse or ridicule. Then there was that time he accidentally became a meme.
But, much as he may dislike Twitter, he hasn’t lost his job over it. Unlike the Labour MP Emily Thornberry, who proved it was indeed possible for one tweet to cause a political resignation.
Resulted in book deals
There you are, happily tweeting away, steadily gaining followers and suddenly: someone offers you a book deal. It sounds implausible, but it happens! Aaron Gillies (or @TechnicallyRon) joined as a way of killing times in between sound cues while working as a sound technician in theatre. After tweeting “a load of old bollocks that I thought was funny”, he was approached by a publishing company:
A publishing company approached me about the book deal, and said to me “If you were to write a book what would you write about?”. I think my immediate reply was “I DON’T KNOW” and then a two week existential crisis. However, it just went from there. I sent off emails to social media companies and comedy companies and even I am surprised anyone would want me to write for them, THE FOOLS.
Ruth and Martin Fitzgerald, who run a blog which gets people to review a famous album they’ve never listened to before, have had similar success via Twitter. Through it, some well-known writers, actors and musicians got involved and now they’re set to release their own book. Martin said:
I’ve always seen Twitter as a party really. You can try and have fun, tell jokes and be positive. Or you can sit in the kitchen and moan about the fact that Marathon is now called Snickers and there’s no real ale at this rubbish party.
Whichever route you take will, in the most part, determine your experience.
Personally, I don’t really like Snickers so we went for the “let’s have a laugh and make people listen to great albums they’ve never heard before” route.
Made people targets of abuse
There’s lots of good about Twitter. But there’s undeniably a darker side. In the past few years, the company has struggled with growing calls to curb abuse on its platform. In a leaked memo, the former chief executive Dick Costolo last year wrote:
We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we’ve sucked at it for years. It’s no secret and the rest of the world talks about it every day. We lose core user after core user by not addressing simple trolling issues that they face every day.
I’m frankly ashamed of how poorly we’ve dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO. It’s absurd. There’s no excuse for it. I take full responsibility for not being more aggressive on this front. It’s nobody else’s fault but mine, and it’s embarrassing.
Since then, Twitter has announced a new safety council made up of specialist charities as well as a raft of new measures to try and put an end to the abuse and harassment.
Resulted in a wedding or two
On a happier note, it seems Twitter has been a place for people to meet their better halves. A book deal is not all Twitter brought @TechnicallyRon: it’s also where he met his wife. And he’s not the only one. A man tweeted Meg Tripp, or @megtripp, after having read her blog:
I didn’t think much of it until I clicked through his profile a little while later to check out his blog, which was focused on design. He was cute, so I sent him a message back as a lark.
Long story short, I flew into Logan airport in October 2008 and met him for the first time at the bottom of an escalator. I couldn’t believe how well matched we were, though we came from completely different backgrounds. We visited back and forth for almost two years, and then in April 2010, I moved here to be with him and my now-stepson (the best, smartest, funniest, most handsome 17 year old on the planet.)
We married in Boston Public Garden on October 22, 2011 with just our families present, and then headed for a beautiful dinner prepared by an award-winning chef … who we met on Twitter.
And the Guardian’s own Simon Ricketts helped bring together another couple in a small way:
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