Tweeting From Cairo To Kalakaua

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - February 16, 2011
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”... following Egypt thru twitter has been very interesting ... especially to me since I don’t watch news at all.”

The quote is a tweet from one of my Twitter friends - and I found it interesting because she is not alone in admitting that Twitter is expanding her world.

Twitter, as you may be guessing right now, fascinates me, and not just because I shamelessly asked you to follow me (and a decent number of you did). I am enthralled by its ability to connect people all over the globe instantaneously, succinctly and efficiently.

Here are tweets coming down on my feed in real time as I write this column:

* AJE: Petrol bombs still being thrown from rooftops by Mubarak thugs. #jan25

* #Bullying, Cyberbullying Held not Protected Speech in CA Civil Suit -Defamation (Libel / Slander) - Injured

* Traffic jam! Road construction in Kalakaua McCully area in Waikiki.

Three tweets - from three different parts of the world. From them I know that violence is escalating in Egypt, cyberbullying is going down in civil courts in California, and I should avoid the traffic mess on Kalakaua when I head out to Ala Moana later today.

Here’s what I’ve observed since signing up on Twitter as @JadeMoon1 three weeks ago:

Twitter is fast. In the seconds it took me to write the above paragraph, I picked up two new followers - one local, one not. When you tweet someone, they can retweet your message to all their followers. Some of them will retweet to all their followers. Before you know it, your tweet has spread to thousands of people in the blink of an eye.

Twitter is spammy. I learned pretty quickly to dump the ones trying to sell hotel rooms, airline tickets, cheap jewelry, skin care products, artwork, etc. Businesses trying to use this tool often are approaching it all wrong. Instead of giving us information we can use and connecting in a personal way with people, they are bombarding us with ham-handed sales pitches and links to products. If you are one of them, be aware that you are now filed under “white noise.” Unfollow, unfollow, unfollow. And block.

Twitter can lull you into a false sense of security. I think some people forget that once on Twitter you are exposing yourself to the world. Do not be fooled. Anything you say has the potential of being retweeted and read by many, many eyes- both here in Hawaii and elsewhere in the world. So try not to tweet embarrassing information about yourself, unless you really want the world to know about your black toenails or your problem with passing gas.

Twitter is a foodie’s best friend and a dieter’s worst nightmare. For some reason people are obsessed with food on Twitter. They take pictures - of the food, of the restaurant, of the meal they just cooked. Lots and lots of pictures of yummy-looking food. Some of them make me want to run out and throw my face into a mixed plate. I end up foraging in my kitchen instead.

Twitter is a news junkie’s paradise. I see headlines and snippets from news organizations and individuals everywhere. I can follow links to stories that interest me and to live streaming news sites. It’s how I found AlJazeera English.

But most impressive: Twitter is impossible to silence. One of the first things the Egyptian government did when the people began protesting was to shut down the Internet and social networking. It didn’t work, the country leaked like a sieve. People found ingenious ways to get around the blackout. One man invented a way to have people call, via landline or cell phone, to an answering machine in a country outside of Egypt. Those messages were then converted to Twitter and spread all over the world.

The woman I quoted at the top who never watches news can tell you exactly what is happening in Egypt, and so can I. That’s because we both follow a woman who lives in Kuwait and who is one of the conduits of information coming out of Egypt. She spends hours retweeting messages from people inside the country who have managed to circumvent the crackdown, helping their voices spread like wildfire around the globe. Despite the government’s desperate efforts, it was impossible to plug up all the holes.

And finally: Twitter is a powerful instrument for good. I mentioned in my earlier column that singer Adam Lambert had asked people to donate to a charity as a birthday gift to him. His initial goal was a modest $29,000, which his fans met and exceeded in four hours. He set another goal, a seemingly impossible figure of $290,000 - and that goal was surpassed Feb. 10, a scant four weeks after his initial request. That is amazing by any standard.

Twitter did that. Power to the people, by the people, for the people. In 140 characters or less.

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