It’s all over the news: how Twitter has effectively helped election protesters in Iran get the word to the West that something isn’t right. It’s a pretty amazing PR story. As Time magazine reported recently, our State Department normally stays away from the maintenance schedules of social networking sites. But fortunately did, indeed, ask Twitter to delay a Monday night network upgrade.
It’s absolutely amazing to me that just a few weeks ago the Wall Street Journal published a story about Twitter and its shaky future. It’s future might still be shaky but certainly less so with CNN practically making it its top story if you count the number of times their anchors mention this unlikely source of international news. But it is without a doubt a major, major coup. I wonder if Twitter’s founders could have possibly imagined the kind of press the company is receiving. Even more intriguing would be their response to the fact that the site has truly made a difference in a nation’s ability—the people of that nation, that is—to communicate with the world. It is so often what we don’t see that influences how we think of a world situation. Without the pictures or the words to describe a tragedy we are, quite literally, left in the dark. We tend to take up with what’s right before us and then we forget what we can’t see. In the last few days, we’ve witnessed what can happen when words and deeds stay out of the dark.
I’ve written some about the importance of understanding social media sites and dipping our collective big toes (Yikes! What a sight!) into these new cultural meeting places in order to know how it all works. One of the reasons this is so critical is the fact that we don’t know, nor can we accurately predict, how Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc. will impact certain world events. I have to believe that someone at Twitter, while not necessarily predicting the specifics of the Iranian election results, must have been thinking about this in some respect. But who knew that a media that didn’t even exist when Iran held its last election would have such a profound effect on a people who desperately want to be heard?