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I learned it from Twitter

September 29th, 2011

There are two ways in which I view social media. First, as a tool that will greatly enhance society, and second, as a stream of poison that continuously informs us of what is happening around the world while simultaneously disconnecting us from it. For me, it seems as if Twitter has fulfilled the latter. The social media tool has left its footprint on our lifestyle, to the point where most of its users don’t know what they’d do without the little blue bird. Many who used to find their news within the tangible pages of a newspaper or by the words of a newscaster have left behind the two original news outlets for trending topics. It was only last week that Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis was executed amid an incredibly large outcry of Twitter users who documented every minute of his last hours.

“Troy Davis,” “NO EVIDENCE” and “Letter to Georgia” were all trending topics throughout last Wednesday night. The minute Davis was executed, you didn’t even have to be tuned into a television, you just needed to be logged in to your Twitter account.

When asked where they were upon finding out about Osama Bin Laden’s death, many people from my generation will say, “I was on Twitter.”

News about the Al Qaeda leader’s death exploded on the website, as topics such as “House Intelligence,” “Osama Bin Laden” and “USA” quickly dominated the site’s top trending topics around the world.

Twitter was even credited with being the first social media outlet to break the news about Bin Laden’s death, with one tweet by Keith Urbahn, the chief of staff for former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn.” Urbahn added, “Don’t know if it’s true, but let’s pray it is.”

The most wanted man in the world was dead, and we found out about it while tweeting to our followers about the homework we didn’t want to begin working on that night.

Have we become too lazy to pick up a newspaper and read about it, or is finding news from trending topics on Twitter just our generation’s way of multitasking? We’ve grown accustomed to needing news at our fingertips, literally. We can search what we want to know, and we’ll never have to flip through the pages of a printed publication if there’s a computer or smart phone nearby. What we want to know is available to us on several websites, with one click.

In a way, it’s made us narrow-minded; we’re only searching for what we want to know, and we’re only using one source to tell us the news. Social media brings us our news in a few fleeting minutes, and then it’s gone. But it’s left its mark on us, because the next time we want that information, all we have to do is log in.