Happy birthday, Twitter! The big 1-0!
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.
3. It's helped connect people in marginalized groups.
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.
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.
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.