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If I ever want to feel really down in the dumps about the state of our world, all I have to do is look at the trending topics on Twitter. Remember a few months ago, for instance, when Twitter users worldwide were discussing the topic #ReplaceMovieTitlesWithPancakes, only to be followed the next day by #ReplaceBandNamesWithPancakes? Whether or not I joined in the discussion by suggesting Harry Potter and the Chamber of Pancakes is irrelevant, of course.
Though these sorts of insignificant topics are commonplace on sites like Twitter, every once in a while social media is used as a vehicle for sharing information that influences the way we act, think, and access worldwide news events. The first example that comes to mind is the 2009 protests of the Iranian election. The so-called Twitter Revolution proved that common citizens could grab the world’s attention with a simple tweet of 140 characters or less.
Last May, Twitter was used as a medium to generate worldwide discussion when a team of Navy SEALS found and killed Osama bin Laden. Reports indicate that news of the terrorist’s demise generated upwards of 5,000 tweets per second. Millions of people around the world learned of, and reacted to bin Laden’s death through social media channels rather than through traditional news outlets.
A similar trend occurred again yesterday when the world learned of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s death. Like the aforementioned events, the topic caught on like wildfire across the Twittersphere and provided millions of Twitter users with real-time accounts of the news as it was breaking.
Events such as these help bridge the gap between people of different nationalities, races, and religions by providing a common platform on which to express thought. Everyone from American celebrities, to the Libyan rebels themselves offered their take on Gadhafi’s capture.
We may not know what is in store for the fragile country of Libya from here on out, but we can stay tuned in to the conversation through our Twitter accounts. What’s more, we can bet on discussing future groundbreaking world events via social platforms as they occur.
Twitter and other social media sites have granted us a space to discuss our everyday habits, yes, but when world-changing events arise, we remember just how ingenious the concept of social media really is.