Twitter - the 5 to 10 billion dollar industry - according to a recent report in the Business Insider is a booming industry. When Twitter just came around, its role in information was obvious, as, in 2006 August, the news of the San Francisco earthquake spread like wildfire, courtesy of Twitter.
Today an amazing number of people tweeting are the ones actually in a position to make a difference to policy and programs at local, national, or global levels. An equally amazing number of people are those whose voices would remain unheard, had it not been for the equalizing world of internet - let us call them the shakers and the fakers. The role Twitter plays continues to be the spread of information and information from a personal perspective, which I guess is a positive way to look at misinformation. Additionally, now you can get the judicious, genuine folks who read more than they write to weigh in on the slightly twisted world of people with sworn affiliations – let us call them the makers. Ultimately, these multi-perspectives, expressed in brevity out of necessity (as the tweeting word limit is 140 characters) are no less than an editorial by a seasoned journalist. In addition, it is probably more accurate, as in the true philosophical tradition, it gives you the truth from multiple perspectives.
As an illustration, recently, the news of the opposition party leader Bhartiya Janta Party’s (BJP) Ms. Sushma Swaraj dancing at Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial place Rajghat in Delhi was extensively tweeted by both the shakers and the fakers group. Courtesy Twitter though one could actually get a response and also an explanation about the incident from Ms. Sushma Swaraj herself. The effect of Sushma Swaraj’s tweet “No place and no occasion is wrong for singing and dancing in praise of our motherland,” had some legitimacy and more importantly, her explanation of the incident put some context on an otherwise randomly curious story.
Sushma Swaraj BJP 7 June
»Our party workers were singing and dancing on 'Ye desh hai veer jawano ka.'
»I was asked to step in. I did this as an act of comraderie for a brief moment. The media is playing that short clip again and again.
»We are patriotic people. We will sing and dance on patriotic songs till our last breath.
The fakers take on the incident was amusing too
»i_common_man Common Man
For dancing in Mumbai, they were fined Rs. 1200 each … Sushma Swaraj will oppose this move at Rajghat
»ChotuGabbar Inam Sarah P
I am always combative- says Sushma Swaraj ji... I feel she shud join the Army service nai?
»MTVIndia MTV India
Mission Impossible - Dance Like a Lady starring Sushma Swaraj
Then there were the makers: amritacroy Amrita C. Roy “Sushma is dancing, Baba is fasting, Anna is worried and #Lokpal bill is buried I guess. #IncredibleIndia #ShiningIndia” who pointed out the ludicrous state of Indian polity.
The Sushma Swaraj incident was not quite earth shattering and had largely local ramifications and discussions that were of a benign nature, it was after all a Hindu woman, of a Hindu nationalist party dancing near a memorial of a person of global stature. So except maybe to a couple of reporters from the private Indian television channel NDTV and more of the educated and sophisticated elites, it did not mean much to people, even in India. If the incident was a little different, the dynamics a little less benign, for instance, a discussion on a race or religion based impropriety, would it have a broader scope and bigger and more toxic outcome? What implication does this transfer of information from the disparate group of shakers, fakers, and makers have for the increasingly boundary-less or at least a world with very porous boundaries.
Hypothetically, one thesis is that information and misinformation can spread at the same rate courtesy The Twitter and many such sites. The self-congratulatory world of Twitter has the Shakers who want followers as recognition of worth, Fakers hope to be seen, and makers treat Twitter as a forum for exchange of well-informed opinions competing with equal legitimacy with each other and with accepted sources of information from the pre-Twitter world. For instance, BBC is now as quick as any individual or group that has a mouse and basic literacy. So suddenly, the entire Twitter world was agog with Indian women’s positivity and stress courtesy of the unaccountable tweets about the findings of the Nielson survey. A little before or after everyone on the Indian Subcontinent and beyond knew that, a woman in Bangladesh has lost her eyesight in the violence experienced at the hands of her abusive spouse. Again benign and maybe beneficial information…what would happen if there were a religious- or race-based riot? How would we manage its tweets? Moreover, would we be able to manage the likelihood of disaster? Even Barack Obama, theoretically the most powerful person in the world, would be flummoxed…and if he tried, you would have to read the tweets very carefully as he tweets only occasionally on his Twitter page, and you know it is he if it is signed BO, otherwise it is his staff apparently.