Twitter turned five on 21st March this year. It has already changed the way the world interacts.Twitter widens and deepens democracy. It reflects the swinging global opinion.Twitter is frivolous and very serious at the same time. It undermines as well as complements traditional media. Twitter is inexpensive. It costs nothing. That's why it is such a great tool of direct democracy.
Twitter was started on 21st March 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams and Biz Stone. All of them were in their early thirties when they started Twitter. Now Twitter has close to 200 million subscribers who generate 140 million tweets a day. Twitter has changed the way top statesmen as well as organizations share information. It has added to democratization of information distribution process.
Within a short span Twitter users include several Presidents, Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers as well as several Government Organizations who interact with common people using Twitter(Tweeple) directly breaking all barriers of 20th century protocol. Democracy actually means the rule by the people. But due to lack of technology it was impossible to have direct rule of the people. People elect representatives and they rule in people's name. Twitter is a step in the direction of participative democracy which is also know as Gov 2.0.
Twitter is a great channel for the policy makers and implementers to gauge public mood on issues of national as well as global importance. The reactions are immediate and instantaneous from the public on decisions or initiatives of the Government. Closely following the comments, reactions on Twitter policy-makers get the window of opportunity for mid course corrections just after the public announcement of their policies. This small window of opportunity can be of great value especially during the time of crisis.
Twitter is as good or bad as its users make it. After all humans tweet, not robots. Twitter is just a medium like any other. It is neutral and should not be blamed. Many people think that Twitter allures people to say things in the fit of the moment that they regret later on.This is not an objective assessment. It is people who are impulsive, not the medium. One can post frivolous stuff or one can tweet well considered statements articulating one's viewpoints or position.
Twitter helps organizations as well as influential individuals set one's own agenda without the help of traditional media. Traditional media might get nervous at the changing equations between the policy makers and their own top guns as policy-makers choose to directly interact with the people or might take advantage of the greater accessibility to policy-makers' viewpoints available in public domain on their Twitter accounts.
To sum it up, twitter is inexpensive, it costs nothing. That's why it is such a great tool of direct democracy.
Twitter for Beginners
Twitter has evolved in a way that enables individuals as well as organizations enter into dialogue with the rest of the world. One can share information, state one's position in as short as 140 characters or as long as one wants by putting a web link in one's tweet.
The above tweet informs people who follow me that Indian Express calls me a Geek. Those who want to read in detail can follow the link.
How to open an account?
Opening an account on Twitter is very simple. Just visit http://www.twitter.com
and Sign Up. It only asks for full name, user name and password. Try to use names of Indian languages for a strong password.
What to do after opening an account on Twitter?
Please go to settings and then to profile and upload a picture. Those who want to announce that you have arrived can do so immediately saying so. But those who want to lie low can choose not to tweet. But the great thing about Twitter is not in tweeting only but building a sound list of individuals and organizations one is interested in. One can type there names in the search box and when they appear click the follow link.
This way one can build a good list of people one is interested in. @AbhayK30 I follow 100 individuals and organizations. One can see the list by visiting http://twitter.com/#!/AbhayK30/following
after signing in (those who already have a Twitter account by now), or one can just sign up if doesn't have an account yet.
People will start following if they are interested in you either personally or professionally.
(Writer is an author & diplomat.Views expressed are his own.)