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lip lit: kate bussmann, a twitter year: 365 days in 140 characters or less

Chances are if you’re reading this, you’re a Gen Y (meaning you were born between 1980-2000, though these dates are not clearly defined). Gen Y are sometimes referred to as the Millennial Generation, Generation Me and the Net Generation. Gen Y is stereotyped as having Peter Pan syndrome, being disrespectful to authority figures, having a sense of entitlement, not responding well to criticism, wanting instant gratification and having an insatiable need for praise. But it’s not all bad. According to studies, Gen Y are adaptable to change, value education, are overwhelming positive, have a high sense of confidence, have a healthy work/life balance and are passionate about social change and equal civil rights.

And oh, Gen Y? Pretty tech savvy. As a matter of fact, allegedly 28% check our smart phone for facebook notifications before we get out of bed. I would say it’s a whole lot more. I definitely check mine — as well as checking the news and my three email accounts (including my work one, even though I’ll be there in an hour).

Around 96% of Gen Y have joined a social network. Apparently, daily, 60 million facebook statues are updated, and over 64 million tweets are tweeted. And while I still read newspapers and visit The Sydney Morning Herald website throughout the day, I still unintentionally get some of my world news from Facebook. I’m sure we all have. On Twitter, I follow The New York Times and a few other news outlets. I love it for when I’m busy – all I have to do is scroll through lines that are less than 140 characters and click on the stories that interest me. Some people may say having our news bite sized is lazy. I prefer to think of it as economical. And I’m clearly not the only one: journalist Kate Bussmann writes that in June 2010 65 million was the average number of tweets sent out. In September 2011? 230 million.

Bussmann was fascinated by the emerging and affronting growth of Twitter, and from this, A Twitter Year: 365 days in 140 characters or less was born. It’s a book compiled of the world that was October 2010 through to September 2011 – though tweets. They aren’t Bussmann’s own, she’s drawn them from all those active in public twitterverse: celebrities, politicians, writers/journalists, corporate identities/publications, and alter egos (accounts for iconic animals, fake celebrities, popular characters).

It’s predominately organised in sections – politics & current affairs, royalty & religion, celebrity, science & nature, sport & leisure, and arts, culture & media. Breaking stories – such as the Chilean Mine Rescue are introduced with the backstory, before the tweets explain the rest of the action. Social media facts and anecdotes are also inserted (such as the story about the women who unfortunately had the twitter handle #theashes, and was bombarded with tweets), profiles of tweeters who have the most followers (mainly celebrities), and graphs and tables that analyse twitter trends (looking back at the Royal Wedding, it seems to be all about Pippa’s arse, but the Queen and Prince Harry actually both scored higher tweet references on the day). There’s a small section at the back, called ‘a tweet a day’, which is self-explanatory.

My major gripe with the book is that while I think the subtitle is effective, it’s somewhat misleading. Because of the way the book is organised, it’s not as straightforward as 365 days and the discussions and graphs are also not in 140 characters or less (I know, semantics. I must be cranky this morning).  The discussions  about twittering are so engaging, and the graphs on tweets are so interesting, I found myself wanting more. However,  A Twitter Year is an interesting light reference book as you can gauge how news is being delivered in a different medium, and how people are all of a sudden becoming increasingly connected.


A Twitter Year: 365 days in 140 characters or less



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