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Tweeting History

Where were you when you heard what happened Sunday night? How did you hear the news first? Was it from TV, Twitter, text messaging, or Facebook?

This is a post totally devoid of political bent and more focused on historical events and the new media that captures it. I felt I had to comment on what happened last night and the media history which changed how we receive information.

Everyone remembers where they were when 9/11 hit and how they first heard about it. I remember driving into work on a typical morning. I tuned into my favorite alternative radio station with a side of humor. As I listened, caught between horror and skepticism, I wondered if they had decided to pull a contemporary “War of the WorldsOnion-style. All the same, I pulled into the local church five blocks from my office and prayed. When I arrived into work, I found utter chaos. The department which sat closest to the entrance had turned all the computers to and pulled out an old dial radio which they crowded around. We spent the entire day around the radio, gathered our news by accessing various news sites, attempted to contact our New York metropolitan area loved ones, and called those outside the office with additional news to report. In a way the event felt similar to radio media in the 1930s-40s and how I perceived people tracked information during World War II. Yet, it also spoke to the dawning of the internet and cellular age (with our attempts to gain information via and friends we reached with our cell phones).

So, I find it interesting, that on a Sunday night, I discovered the event had come full circle. Utterly ignorant of history unfolding, I hopped onto Facebook for a quick break. I noticed a series of posts ranging from quotes like “Fuh-what?” to “ding dong.” Five minutes later the e-mails started pouring in via the CliqueClack listserv and five minutes after that I turned on CBS to watch the president’s speech.

This has been a monumental weekend for television history, but more specifically media history. The royal wedding occurred on Friday (despite my skepticism), the president’s comedic response to one of his critics happened at the correspondent’s dinner, and now this.  However, what’s interesting is how the information came across to me via FaceBook, then e-mail, and finally television, almost similar to how I heard about 9/11. Interestingly, CliqueCackers heard about it via IM or twitter, before taking it to e-mail and conventional media.

But perhaps it isn’t surprising that we all received our news via non-conventional news sources. Although Michael will focus on the power of TV, Katie and Ivey were the first to point out the irony of their information source. Considering Twitter has around 200 million users who send out about one billion tweets a week and Facebook has  around 660 million users with 71% of the US internet audience on Facebook, perhaps a dissemination source that comes to our in-box via our friends, families, and those who interest us, should not shock us. Clearly, it would reach us faster than slightly passive informational sources such as TV or print, which waits for us to pick them up.

Where were you when last night’s message came through? What media variation did you hear it from? Twitter? Facebook? Television? E-mail? Was it different from when you heard about 9/11?

Katie: Is anyone else watching the news (or is actually awake)? Cause we’re pretty sure Osama bin Laden is dead.
Jen: Yep. Picking up my jaw now.
Ivey: Yeah, thanks to Twitter, I’ve been on this since like 10:20.
Katie: A sign of the times, my boyfriend found out through WoW and after turning on the news, I instinctively went to Twitter.
Carla: I was finishing up my Game of Thrones post when Ivey IM’d me about the President speaking. So, I looked at Twitter to find out what was going on. It’s all a blur. … It was amazing to watch the tweets filling my screen.
Michael: I’m watching people celebrating outside the White House, cheering … waving flags.
Tara: I’m finding it to be an amazing weekend in TV history. To celebrate life with William and Kate, and (in a way) to celebrate a death and closure for the people affected by the horrible tragedy of 9/11. As I watch the people at Ground Zero, hear the stories … come to understand how much so many needed the justice of Bin Laden’s death to move on. It’s been a memorable weekend all around. And again, I have to say how much I’ve always loved television for keeping us right in the link.
Carla: Twitter has played an interesting role in this event — a man was live-tweeting the attack in Pakistan, only he didn’t know what it was. You can look at the Sohaib Athar’s tweets from earlier on Sunday.

Photo Credit: WinterSixFour/

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2 Responses to “Tweeting History”

May 2, 2011 at 2:03 PM

I was catching up on this week’s The Amazing Race episode on the DVR and was preparing to write up my post when I got on Facebook a bit after 10:30 and saw some posts saying bin Laden had been killed. At that point, the president was supposed to have already spoken so I went to MSNBC’s site to see the video but what I got was a live feed, so I went back to the TV and was pretty much glued to that until about 4 AM. I actually learned about the 9/11 attacks online as well as I was getting ready for work that day. The power of the internet!

May 2, 2011 at 3:14 PM

I just finished watching Tron Legacy and went to check Facebook quickly before getting some work done. I never got around to it needless to say. I was glued to CNN for a few hours till I got bored and just checked updates of live feeds outside the White House and Ground Zero online.

9/11 I learned about around 2:30 in the afternoon when I came home from school, turned on the TV, and saw the replay of the planes hitting. To this day I’m annoyed the school said nothing to us. I live about an hour outside of NYC and had family members who worked in and around the towers so it was a moment of true horror knowing that one or more could be dead now. Thankfully they all were safe. The TV was almost on non-stop for days after that.

So I guess the internet has truly replaced TV for where we get our breaking news over the last (almost) ten years.