To the Twitterverse and beyond.
It sounds like something Buzz Lightyear could have said in “Toy Story,” but it's true. If you're not tweeting, you need to jump on in. The cyber universe is fine.
A local emergency gave me my first real Twitter “aha” moment. Though I had been on Twitter for a while, and had even been to a social media conference, I had not had an experience with the lightning-fast ability of this social medium to spread news.
Last spring, I was driving on Sullivan's Island toward the Isle of Palms when a group of emergency vehicles whizzed past with sirens blaring.
Seeing the rescue boats in tow let me know there was an emergency on the water.
A lifelong sailor and boater, I have been rescued once and participated in another rescue, so water emergencies always grab my attention.
Without my handheld VHF radio in the car that I could have used to hear the nature of the indicent, I decided to pull over and use the Twitter app on my phone.
On Twitter, topics are organized using “hashtags,” or the # symbol. In this incidence, I used the hashtags #CHSNEWS and #MTPNEWS. Within less than one minute, I was able to see that a local reporter had posted the nature and location of the water emergency. It was that a pleasure craft that caught fire in the harbor, burned to the waterline and sank.
You can have a lot of fun with hashtags on Twitter. Sometimes people get an idea, make a statement with a hashtag, and start a Twitter trend. For instance, last Friday night, after all the national news about the federal government gathering information on our cell phone and Internet use, someone started the hashtag #ReplaceMovieTitleWithWiretap. People began having a blast making up movie titles, such as “Blazing Wiretaps.”
Political scientist and television commentator Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia had some big hits with his creations, especially “The Days of Wine and Wiretaps.” There are lots of serious topics and comments, but there is also a lot fun poked at the follies of big government as well. Personally, I think it is the digital substitute for the old fashioned way of sitting around at the country store or on the front porch discussing politics and making jokes.
On the day of the voting for the SC-1 congressional seat, I was astounded by the amount of Twitter activity over the race. To their credit, the Democratic operatives got a national audience engaged. Impressed by the sheer volume of their tweets, I started looking at their profiles to see how many were actually residents of this district. There were very few.
There's nothing wrong with that – it just goes to show how social media connects us.
When I was a congressional press secretary 10 years ago, there was no social media to speak of. My job was to use email to distribute news releases and press statements, then call reporters and tell them to check their email inbox.
How times have changed – this past election cycle, people announced their candidacy for the most powerful position in the world through social media first.
Established news outlets make good use of social media, too. The Moultrie News has an effective Facebook page as well as a Twitter feed, @MoultrieNews.
These social media feeds drive tens of thousands of readers to the newspaper's online news stories and millions of readers to this column. #ImNotKidding. Let's see if that trends.
Will Haynie has published more than 400 oped columns as a feature columnist for the Asheville Citizen-Times and the Hendersonville (N.C.) Times-News when it was owned by the New York Times. His niche is as a humorous conservative. Find him on Twitter at @willhaynie or email him at Haynie.firstname.lastname@example.org.