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

Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less