#Awaresg and the power of twitter

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The night before last I was sitting down at my computer browsing the Internet and tweetdeck and my stream was filled up with posts from @patlaw about #awaresg. If you haven’t heard about it, a Christian fundamentalist group hijacked a women’s rights group in Singapore called ‘AWARE‘ by flooding the AGM with new members and purged the organisation of it’s old members. The night I was reading @patlaw’s tweets she was  at a meeting where a couple of thousand people had turned up to pass a vote of no confidence and get rid of the new executive who weren’t acting in AWARE’s best interests. It was fascinating reading her tweets and witnessing in New Zealand what was happening in Singapore instantaneously. It almost felt like I was in the room with all those people. Then I discovered Twitterfall, a service like live search except that you don’t have to refresh the page. You just simply enter in a search term and the tweets come rolling in. I was able to read what everyone on twitter was saying about AWARE by entering in a search term for #awaresg. People were hungry, worried about their cars being ticketed, angry that the new exec had spent $90,000 in the few days they had been in power, and most of all people were fed up with waiting for the votes of no confidence to be counted.

#awaresg at that time was a trending topic, so there were a lot people twittering about it, and it struck me that Twitter is an amazing and revolutionary tool for communicating in real time about events unfolding. The very fact that I was able to read all these tweets as they were written, and almost felt like I was in the room myself was an amazing thing. Those people in room taking the time to Twitter were sharing the event with people around the world instantly. This was citizen journalism, ordinary people sharing their experiences of an event in a way so much more relevant and powerful than if it had arrived at my computer through the traditional channels of media.  I’m not saying Twitter is a replacement for traditional media, a well researched piece of journalism is invaluable, but rather a complementary tool which can offer more up to date information and from the perspective of people that are in the midst of it all. Eventually the vote of no confidence passed and hundreds of tweets erupted in an exclamation of victory. I went to bed, amazed and excited that I could feel so connected with an event so far away.

Photo by gniliep

Popularity

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I’ve recently become swamped by social networking – I’m drowning in a torrent of status updates and news to read. I use Bebo, Facebook, Twitter and now Virb (2.0 has just been launched!). Keeping up with the endless stream of things popping up in my RSS reader and on TweetDeck and checking social sites is becoming too much. I think I’m going to have to cull a few feeds from Google Reader.

I ask myself: why do I maintain all these social networking sites? And I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because I have a -somewhat closeted- desire to become popular. I think social networking sites (ie Facebook) have facilitated and stimulated an already present desire in people (me included) to have a lot of friends, be very social and to generally flaunt their popularity. By maintaining all these social networking profiles I think I am attempting to become as popular as I can. But when you think about it properly, the number of friendships doesn’t matter at all, it’s the quality that is important. Internet popularity runs on a quantitative model which is deeply flawed. The most intriguing thing though is why I feel a desire to become more popular, to improve my social status. It certainly doesn’t reflect well on me.

I think my motives for writing a blog are the same as frequenting social networking sites. Writing for a blog that next to no one reads, I can’t help but entertain the fantasy that one day I will wake up and overnight the entire internet will have come to recognize that this is worth reading. A scenario that is perhaps a tad unrealistic, but if I didn’t think more people might read this blog at some point in the future, why would I still blogging? To entertain the handful of people who do read my incoherent ramblings?  I also can’t help but feel that my situation is shared by countless numbers of bloggers around the world who want nothing more than for a few people to hear what they have to say. With the advent of easy accessible blogging websites, creating a website can take only a few minutes and as a result the internet is veritably flooded with people voicing their opinions regardless of whether anyone is listening. And I think at the end of the day most people blog because they want to become famous. They want to make it big.

Also, the image for this post is from Nexus friend grapher – a tool that creates a picture out of your network of friends on Facebook.  It’s fascinating to see how my different groups of friends and family relate to each other.