Think big. Be different.

The Defining Moments of History are Now on Twitter

By Garrett Moon on May 2, 2011 in News.

I have always been amazed by the moments that define us as a country and a society. Last night was one of those moments.

According to TechCrunch, this was the first credible news of Osama's death.

Where Were You When You Heard the News?

There is a common question that follows on the heals of world changing events – ‘where were you when you heard the news?’ I remember exactly where I was when O.J. Simpson’s verdict was read, I remember seeing the first images of the tsunamis in Indonesia, I remember when the first missiles were fired on Iraq, and I remember the entire morning surrounding 9/11. The news of Osama Bin Laden’s death was in some way a continuation of that day, but it’s delivery was completely different.

This event was the first event, of this magnitude at least, where Twitter was not only how the news broke for me, but where I spent most of my time reacting. During the entire hour leading up to President Obama’s speech, Twitter became my primary communication channel and news source. Sure, I had broadcast news playing in the background, but while they were catching up, I was engaged on Twitter.

Sure, don’t get me wrong. Major events have been covered on Twitter for some time, and there has been plenty of conversation surrounding Twitter’s ability to beat broadcast to the story (they did by a good 20 minutes). From what it looks like, this story in particular may have actually broke exclusively on Twitter.

Screenshots of Obama's speech shared on Twitter.

I think the thing that amazed me more than anything was watching the world react, or at least my little band of people that I follow. I was able to see, in real-time, each person react to the news and try to digest the information. We laughed many times, but we all knew the severity of the situation. Together we wondered, are we celebrating a death or a different kind of victory?

The Morning After

On the morning after, I have many thoughts, but the one that sticks out the most clearly is the incredible power that tools like Twitter have to offer us as both a channel for communication, and as a tool for disseminating news. Which, at it’s core, is just another way to say communication.

Everyday on this blog, we break down the marketing and business aspects of Twitter and Facebook and the entire web. It is important stuff, sure, but I can be easy to lose sight of what we are dealing with. Yes, these tools provide a realistic and valuable marketing opportunity for all of us, but with all of that talk, it can be easy to forget how much Twitter has changed the world.

The revolt in Egypt was started using social networks. Millions have been raised online for victims of earthquakes and tsunami’s. Major world news has broke on Twitter and beat every major network to the punch by at least 20 minutes.

For those that claim, ‘Twitter is dead’ or that Facebook is the only platform that matters, think again. The point that you are missing is that Twitter is not just a social network, it is a communications platform. Someday it may not be called Twitter, but at it’s core it will always be a part of us.

For now, Twitter is mostly back to normal. Breakfast reports, silly observations, blog posts, and scams are all trending again. But, for a moment last night, Twitter was something completely different. It is a bit hard to explain for those of you that weren’t there. I am sorry for this. Laura Young from Reuters news called it Twitter’s defining moment. You can read her column here.

In her story she published a quote from Jeff Jarvis, a journalist, blogger, and the writer of the book What Would Google Do. He said:

“Twitter has had many defining moments,” Jarvis told me in an email. “This is another. What is special this time: we want to reach out and be together. Twitter enables that. The old definition of a shared national experience was watching TV at the same time. This shared experience is happening with TV in the background. The Internet is our connection machine and Twitter is the new Times Square.”

I think he’s said it better than anyone.

So, where were you when you heard the news? I would love to hear from a few of you.