That today is Twitter’s fifth birthday is an indication of exactly how fast time can seem to move in the world of social networking. About three and a half years ago, promoted by Ben Ayers, I signed up to Twitter. I don’t think either of us quite knew how influential Twitter would become (even if we never stopped banging on about its importance at work).
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration (albeit one with no intentional hyperbole behind it) to say that Twitter has changed my life.
Twitter had been across my radar for six months before that. I’d even started looking into how it could be used with the website and reporting of the local commercial station I was working for at the time, before I moved to the bright lights of London.
At first, I think I confined myself to people I knew. Then started branching out to people they knew, or followed people who followed me and it kind of took off from there, as I gradually moved from having virtual conversations with people to meeting them in real life.
I still remember the first proper Twitterer I met in real life who I’d previously only spoken to on Twitter beforehand. Darika Ahrens came into my then workplace to pitch for some business – and DMed me the day before to say hello. It seemed like a novelty at the time, exciting even.
Now, I’d think nothing of saying hi to a random Twitter person I’d been following for a while. And Darika’s become a brilliant friend, not to mention being the first person I’d go to if I wanted to sound out an idea about social media.
I remember the first Twestival I went to. Colleagues at work thought it was slightly strange that I was going to party with a bunch of people, many of whom had never met each other before. Now, a Twitter meetup seems normal. Of course, I’ve dragged friends along to assorted Twitter events. We all use the service in a different way, which is one of the joys of Twitter.
I’ve made other friends through social media too. Without Twitter, it’s doubtful there would have ever been a twofootedtackle podcast, or at least not one with so many different guests (some of whom have become great friends as well). I’ve met some amazing people, and been afforded some amazing opportunities as a result.
Five years ago, the job I currently do wouldn’t have existed. Nor the job before that. I work with Twitter on a daily basis (it’s not the only thing I do, I hasten to add). It continues to fascinate, entertain and challenge me. Without Twitter, I certainly wouldn’t have my current job.
Then there’s the way Twitter has evolved and continues to evolve. Sure, you’ll get people (myself included a vast amount of the time) wittering away about everyday mundanities – although I’ve rarely had such a large amount of replies as when I asked about the best way to remove mould from my bathroom.
But more than that, you’ll get people who use it to share information and use it for their profession, be it journalism, PR or celebrity (or other).
The rise of celebrities on Twitter added another dimension to the site. It felt a bit weird when the big names, complete with all their new followers, invaded Twitter (I still maintain Phillip Schofield had a bigger effect than any other celebrity in the UK when he first joined).
Then there’s the newsgathering aspects, and even using it to challenge governments or coordinate aid efforts, as we’ve seen in Egypt and Japan recently.
When, in 2008, I blogged about tracking a breaking news story (in this case, the attempted suicide bombing in Exeter) using Twitter and other social media, it was a slightly unusual way of treating the newsgathering process. Today, I suspect any journalist covering a breaking story would immediately head onto Twitter and start searching.
Twitter has given me a lot of laughs, contacts, career help, new friends, helped create a podcast, fuelled my love of football and, at times, been a source of comfort, especially when I ended up in hospital, alone and scared with no idea what was wrong with me.
Like it or not, and for better or for worse, Twitter has changed the way we see the world. And, I suspect, as new users join and start using the service in different ways, it will continue to evolve.
Now, who wants to know what I had for lunch?