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Tweeter and politicians; unpopular tweets gets into trouble

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I AM now a full-fledged tweep, twitter-wallah or member of the twitterati, to mean I am now part of the newest, hippiest, coolest online social networking service that is taking the world by storm.

Facebook may have more members and YouTube is everyone’s favourite but Twitter is fast redefining social media. You ask me, it is no more than SMS on the Net (the correct term is text-based posts), only more interesting and challenging. It is the art of messaging in 140 characters and no more. What I learned about summarising passages or meringkaskan karangan in school is utilised to the fullest. The rule of the game is precision and brevity. In fact, many tweets are written with so many abbreviations and acronyms that even Egyptian hieroglyphics are easier to decipher.

I am not alone in the household tweeting. All my five children are; my youngest, though, keeps hers private, so I do not have access to her tweets. My eldest son has sent out 67,634 tweets (that many? Does he have anything else to do, I wonder) and has 3,425 followers the last time I checked. With so many tweets sent out, no wonder the 400-million-a-day worldwide tweet barrier was breached recently.

Perhaps the originator, Jack Dorsey, had people like me in mind when he started the concept in 2006. Tweeting is about sharing, just like Facebook, the only difference is, your posting can be read by anyone, unless, of course, you restrict those following you. It is distracting, time-consuming and addictive, not unlike Facebook. But like anything else in the cyber-realm, we simply can’t live without it. For someone like me who has the luxury of long hours of the night, subjecting myself to endless reading of boring books and articles or jumping between watching masterpieces and the worst films, Twitter is such a relief. Or else, I would have made a good taxi driver or a morgue-keeper.

Many tweet to engage among themselves, exchanging the latest news, gossip, musings, rantings, outrage, disappointments, whatever. Others criticise, condemn, cast aspersions, spread lies, rumours, and retweet without the slightest idea that some are libellous. Twitterland can be lawless. And dangerous. But the domain is inhabited by many more sensible people, who argue their case and position with style and finesse, who dare to differ, who have dissenting views and are not afraid to say so, and who love to see better governance, good life and peace prevail. Being critical is a virtue that we expect from the young and the educated anyway.

Politicians love the new medium for it can reach out to many more people. The new media has become a battleground to win hearts and minds. Not surprisingly, other than entertainers, politicians are active tweeps.

President Barack Obama is currently number six in terms of followings with 16,524,193 followers. He posted 4,265 tweets. Lady Gaga is the champion with 26,640,189 followers, slightly less than the entire population of Malaysia. How many tweets has she posted? A mere 1,534. Justin Bieber has 23,242,229 followers, followed by Katy Perry, Rihana and Britney Spears. Out of the top 20 in the world in terms of following, there are two footballers, Kaka (No. 16 with more than 11 million followers) and Christiano Ronaldo (No. 20 with 10 million).

On the home front, Datuk Seri Najib Razak was one of the first to embrace Twitter other than Facebook.

He believes in social media and uses it effectively to send his messages, especially to the young. He has currently 658,697 followers and counting. He follows 83 and favourited eight. So far, he has posted 2,602 tweets. Perhaps only actress Lisa Surihani has more followers (755,725). She has been tweeting since July 18, 2009, posting 2,525 tweets and following 59.

Almost all ministers are tweeting today. Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, Datuk Seri Mohd Khaled Nordin and Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim are the most active. Khairy Jamaluddin is an old pro in this space.

Why would people tweet? Good question. Comedian Harith Iskandar makes a living speculating on that. He finds it perplexing twitter-wallahs have to post a tweet wherever they are and accompanying it even with the food they eat. Of course, tweeting is informative and the cheapest way to sell products and services for others.

As for me, I believe in sharing knowledge and information. Perhaps by concentrating on the positives — sharing books, movies, articles, culture and the arts, and trivia, useful or otherwise, with my followers (1,997 of them, mostly young people), I can help make Twitterland a more exciting, tantalising and peaceful realm.

Politics? I leave it to others.

By: Johan Jaaffar – NST columnist