Twitter, it seems, is making quite a splash in the Philippine shores. Although it is a relatively new phenomenon here in the country, people around the world have already been very much acquainted with this micro-blog service. First thing’s first, what on earth is a micro-blog anyway? This reminds me of the time when people back in the early 2000s were very much baffled with the term “blog,” which by the way is short for “web log.” Of course, we all found out later on that it was simply a digital medium in which we can freely share our thoughts with the rest of the globe (or not, depending on your privacy settings) and comment on the musings of others as well. Micro-blogging is just that, only made simpler.
Neologisms aside, I remember back when Blogger.com (that’s “Blogspot” for you old-school bloggers out there) was the de rigueur blogging service that our adolescent versions of ourselves signed up for. LiveJournal and Xanga were popular too but most teens favored Blogger because of the more user-friendly interface and of course, the option to customize its appearance. What’s funny was that back then, people were very much concerned with having really long blog entries (I am guilty of this) with the hope that some random classmate or friend (who happens to have a blog of his or her own) would be intrigued and thus comment on it. Also, if you post regularly and more intriguingly, that person might add you to his or her blogroll. There also came a time when photo-blogs were the “in” thing and had people migrating to Multiply (which has now been dominated by online merchants). Again, the personal branding bug has bitten us hard and the itch that came with it (to publicize part if not all of our personal lives, no less) is insatiable. Nowadays, however, times have indeed changed.
The creation of Twitter (as well as Plurk) has changed the way people blog forever. With the addition of the suffix micro-, it meant that blogging is now made easier (in the same way micro-miniskirts made the women who wore them seem “easier”). It is easier in the sense that you don’t have to compete with yourself or fellow bloggers with who has the longer post. The challenge with Twitter is how do you compress your thoughts into 140 characters or less. It becomes even more challenging if, like me, one prefers to spell out everything. I have always been a staunch believer that if you have the leisure of typing out words in full (read: if you’re using a keyboard), you should. The only time I deem it acceptable to shorten words is when you’re SMS-ing someone. Add to that the fact that I have a lot of thoughts running though my head at any given time. It makes for quite a debate with myself as to what words to use and what phrases to contract to fit into the limit.
I think that the reason why most people sign up for Twitter is the ability to “follow” celebrities (or in my case, fashion blogs and modeling agencies) for real-time updates on what they’re doing at the moment. It’s the feeling of being somewhat of a fly-on-the-wall (especially if said celebrity uses TwitPic or TweetPhoto) that makes fans seem closer to the people they idolize. It must be noted also that Plurk does not have the kind of prominence that Twitter has, mainly because the latter capitalized on the already established popularity of its famous users. The “verified account” badge makes it more credible. However, some use Twitter to make themselves feel like celebrities in their own right, in terms of “Tweeting” every excruciating detail of their relatively boring everyday lives.
On the other hand, some people are more sensible by following media institutions like GMA, ABS-CBN, BBC, CNN, and the like to get news updates from all over the world. It amazes me how much traffic goes on in Twitter especially when big news breaks. Sometimes, it cannot accommodate everyone and thus prompts the “Fail Whale” graphic to appear. During functional hours, however, Twitter can also be used as a platform in which organizations can make announcements or maybe press releases; with the message more easy to understand and direct to the point. An organization can somehow gauge the number of its target audiences by the number of followers they have or by how issues related to them are trending in the Twitter-verse.
Even though Twitter has somehow convinced people to start micro-blogging, it hasn’t stopped people from using conventional blogs like Blogger and WordPress. This comes as a relief to people who think that writing for more than one paragraph is dead. At first, I was rather skeptical in signing up for a micro-blog because I was convinced that writing should be done in its most traditional sense (length and depth being the primary factors that I judge upon). I have come to realize eventually that you can indeed be both insightful and meaningful in less than 140 characters; it really depends on how you construct your thoughts in order to convey a complete idea. Communication may be more compact nowadays but it’s the quality of it that counts at the end of the day.
NOTE: You may have notice that I did not include Tumblr in this post. Much as I want to talk further about the Tumblr phenomenon here, I shall do so in my next entry since it demands a more in-depth discussion.