The Revolution Will Be Tweeted



COMMENTARY: Snapshot: My 86-year-old mother, a former schoolteacher and missionary, hunched in her darkened second bedroom in front of a glowing iMac, writing social protest e-mails at all hours of the day and night, forwarding links to Mother Jones and The Ragin’ Grannies blogs and conversation groups.

Snapshot: Me, waking in the morning, picking up the cell phone charging next to my bed and, with a mix of bleariness and anticipation, logging on to Twitter to see what’s happening with friends. After that, I check the CNN app. Facebook is not far behind. By that point, I’ve usually disturbed my boyfriend sleeping beside me. He rolls over and, after a kiss good morning, gets on his phone, checking in with the world. We lie like this for a few minutes, sharing a funny or disturbing bit of news with each other as we read it, and finally get up to face the day.

Snapshot: A CNN report about teen girls and text messaging shows that American mothers are more and more often having to reach their kids via smart phone. But not by calling — teen girls seem unlikely to check voice mail. If you want to reach your daughter these days, one mom lamented, you have to message them.

Snapshot: Tahrir Square in Cairo, the street filled with anti-government protesters in what became the first revolution to be born and promoted via social media, namely Facebook pages and Twitter updates. Recognizing the power of what was occurring, (then) President Hosni Mubarak suspended Internet service in Egypt for several days. Social media didn’t just make history, it … MADE … history.

Snapshot: Starbucks, any city USA. People wait in line to order or pick up coffee. A few sit in small groups chatting. But many are sitting silent, leaning forward, staring at the displays of their laptops and smart phones, interacting on social media sites. This is the new normal.

Snapshot: More than two million people click on the YouTube channel for Dan Savage’s It Gets Better, a social media project to help reach bullied LGBT teens at risk of suicide. “Spokespersons” from Hillary Clinton to popular actors to everyday people record videos on their home computers and upload them so teens can watch.

Snapshot: At an evening rehearsal for a local volunteer choir, members are asked to support the group’s Twitter and Facebook presence by joining and posting thoughts and comments. “Twitter? Please!” one of the middle-aged performers balks. Then he rejoins, “Yes, I’ve heard of Twitter. And frankly, I have no need to know what Sarah Palin is up to today!”

Friends, the landscape has changed. There has been a quantum shift in the way people communicate, and not everyone is on board.

Tags: Commentary