10 years after the first tweet, here are 9 ways Twitter has changed the world.

In the 10 years since Jack Dorsey pressed send on that very first tweet, a lot has changed.

The microblogging site, originally known as Twttr (thankfully, that didn't stick), had just a handful of members, and most who signed up had little more to do than post about what they had for breakfast. Oh, and if you wanted to post from your phone, you had to do it via text message. These were simpler times.


Now, the company boasts more than 320 million active users per month, and it's still growing.


A decade after that very first tweet, the service has helped change the world in remarkable ways. Here are just a few examples.

1. It's revolutionized how we consume news.

A 2015 Pew Research poll found that 63% of the site's active users get their news via Twitter (up from 52% just two years earlier). It makes total sense, too! With the ability to post from just about anywhere, Twitter changed how pro and amateur journalists report on news as it unfolds. It's breaking news right on your phone.


2. It's changed how we organize social and political movements.

Whether you're talking about Black Lives Matter, the 2009 protests of Iran's election, the Arab Spring, or any of the many other campaigns launched via the site, Twitter has played a huge role in helping people organize and rally around various causes. That sort of organization, usually centered around a hashtag or keywords, has made it increasingly harder for media organizations to ignore events — if something is trending on Twitter, people will wonder why it's not also being reported by news organizations.


What's more is that the ability to form coalitions online and off brings with it a lot of power — most importantly, the power to make your voice heard.

Photo by Angelo Merendino/Getty Image.

3. It's helped connect people in marginalized groups.

One prominent example is author Janet Mock's #girlslikeus campaign. It started with a simple tweet supporting Miss Universe hopeful Jenna Talackova, but soon morphed into something much larger.

Suddenly, transgender women had a hashtag they could check to see stories by others who have shared some of their same experiences. For a group rife with people experiencing loneliness, being able to see that they're not alone (and having a place to reach out for help) is undoubtably a lifesaving experience for some.

4. It's changed how we learn about other people outside our own communities.

Growing up, you probably didn't have much of a say as far as what kind of racial, religious, and gender diversity you were exposed to; it was just a product of circumstance. With Twitter, you can make conscious efforts to learn about people and cultures you don't know a whole lot about simply by following and listening. It's a quick way to learn more about people from different economic backgrounds, people with different abilities and disabilities, people with differing political philosophy, and so much more.


5. It's given us direct access to public figures.

Celebrities! They're just like us!

It used to be that the only time you'd hear from a famous individual would be in planned-out interviews coordinated by public relations professionals. Nowadays, these same celebrities are a part of everyday life. In other words, being able to read about and interact with celebrities has helped humanize them and show that they face many of the same struggles as the rest of us.

Sometimes — as in the recent effort to #FreeKesha from her contract with Sony over sexual assault allegations — fans can use their collective power to create change on a celebrity's behalf.

6. It's given us a whole new avenue for providing (and receiving) instant feedback on news, entertainment, goods, and services.

This one is certainly a bit of a double-edged sword, that's for sure. It's become easier than ever to let somebody know how you feel about their work — in a very public way. Take, for example, this interaction with the San Francisco Bay Area's rapid transit organization. They get very, very real in their response.


7. It's created a whole new genre of comedy demonstrating that, yes, brevity is the soul of wit.

Comedy is hard. Turning 140 characters into brilliant humor? Even harder. Twitter has birthed a whole new kind of comedian — one who can fit setup and punchline into the tiny space of a tweet. It's helped launch careers and, in one case, provided us with the most amazing segment in HLN history.

8. It's changed how politicians interact with their constituents.

Just last week, as President Obama was set to announce his pick for the vacancy on the Supreme Court, the White House set up a special Twitter account specifically to spread information about the selection.

There have been great moments (like the time Hillary Clinton retweeted Bernie Sanders in an act of unity) and, well, some not-so-great moments (like former Congressman Anthony Weiner's sex scandal or all the times Donald Trump has retweeted white supremacist Twitter accounts). One thing's for sure, though: Politics will never be the same.

9. Twitter has taught us how crucial being kind to each other is in modern life.

Things on Twitter can get pretty heated. Whether it's arguing about politics, religion, or entertainment, it's sometimes a bit scary to see how quickly things escalate.

What's important isn't the fighting, but what we can take away from it. It's taught us that lonely people can be targets for groups promoting hatred. It's shown us that loving each other and building our real offline communities are just as important as the ones we create online.

Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images.

It should be said that Twitter still has a lot of room to improve (and not with algorithmic timelines that no one asked for either).

As former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said, "We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we've sucked at it for years." Cyberbullying, harassment, trolling, or whatever else you want to call it: Twitter has a problem that in 10 years of existence, it hasn't been able to address successfully. While the company has made changes to features and its Terms of Service, it's safe to say there are a lot of people who would give up a year's worth of new features for some better protection from harassment. That (and being able to edit your tweets) has to be one of the most wished-for features the site could adopt.

In just 10 years, the way the world communicates has changed — and mostly for the better.

Here's hoping that in another 10, we'll see more innovations that help us connect and empathize with others in this world.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

In the autumn of 1939, Chiune Sugihara was sent to Lithuania to open the first Japanese consulate there. His job was to keep tabs on and gather information about Japan's ally, Germany. Meanwhile, in neighboring Poland, Nazi tanks had already begun to roll in, causing Jewish refugees to flee into the small country.

When the Soviet Union invaded Lithuania in June of 1940, scores of Jews flooded the Japanese consulate, seeking transit visas to be able to escape to a safety through Japan. Overwhelmed by the requests, Sugihara reached out to the foreign ministry in Tokyo for guidance and was told that no one without proper paperwork should be issued a visa—a limitation that would have ruled out nearly all of the refugees seeking his help.

Sugihara faced a life-changing choice. He could obey the government and leave the Jews in Lithuania to their fate, or he could disobey orders and face disgrace and the loss of his job, if not more severe punishments from his superiors.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Sugihara was fond of saying, "I may have to disobey my government, but if I don't, I would be disobeying God." Sugihara decided it was worth it to risk his livelihood and good standing with the Japanese government to give the Jews at his doorstep a fighting chance, so he started issuing Japanese transit visas to any refugee who needed one, regardless of their eligibility.

Keep Reading Show less