What the Tweet? How Trinis are using Twitter

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Trinidadians are famous for adopting the latest fad or fashion. We like to be ahead of the game, on the crest of the next wave – at least, as long as we can do so before the friend/neighbour/that-one-in-the-fete-who-thinks-(s)he-cute. Case in point: Trinidadians seemed to invade Facebook when it became available to the wider public.

Not so with Twitter – at least, from my vantage point. I know any number of people who spend many an hour macoing on Facebook, lollygagging on YouTube, and/or still living in the MySpace dark ages – but won’t use Twitter. Many still seem to think it’s useless. “Why would I want to know what Ashton Kutcher thinks about anything?” they say. And rightly so – why the hell would you care about banalities like that?

Make no mistake – Twitter is chock-full of insipid, mundane crap. There are indeed people who tweet (I’m done putting the word between quotes, since it’s a legitimate noun/verb these days – Scrabble Dictionary next!) about every single thing going on in their narcissistic, uneventful little lives. I myself have been known to update the wider world with goings-on about my daughters, my wife, the weather, or that really cute woman in a tight black sweater speaking French to someone at the local Starbucks – oy!

But to those of us who understand its power, it is much more than that. For me, for instance – it has become THE way of connecting with and keeping in touch with other West Indians, living both within and outside of the island chain. In fact, that group has become so vibrant, vociferous, and talkative (as West Indians are apt to do), that there is even a hashtag for them/us: they/we are the #WITArmy – or West Indian Twitter Army to the uninitiated.

How are the members (soldiers?) of the #WITArmy using Twitter? Jeez – how are they not?

For one thing, Twitter unites people from all over the Diaspora, allowing them to converse (in 140 character spurts) in real time. I for one carry on conversations with people I’ve known since high school (wha yuh sayin’, @basantam?) and people I “know” only through Twitter (how tings, pretty-much-everyone-else-I-know-on-Twitter?). It has spawned at least one completely spontaneous and truly grassroots online discussion forum (the #NoBehaviourShow, started and run by @SanMan_ish, @maxnavie and @dre7413), where any and all can comment on the issue under discussion. I’ve observed Twitterers (Tweeters? Tweeples? Twits? Twa…let’s not go there) exchange recipes, extol the virtues of coffee, share photographs, link to blogs, flirt, debate politics, and encourage envy among those of us living in colder climes when comments and pictures of sun-drenched scenes are tweeted.

For those so interested, you can, in fact, “follow” your favourite celebrities and/or news sources – almost every major celebrity (singer, actor, political commentator, etc.) is on there, or soon will be, and every major news source has a presence there. BBC, CNN, MSNBC, not to mention CNC3 – they’re all there. Frankly, it’s kind of cool “hearing” from celebrities you admire. I could care less about Mr. Kutcher, but I do follow David Rudder, Eddie Izzard, Roger Ebert, Conan O’Brien, Cornel West, Stephen Colbert, Neil Patrick Harris – and Sesame Street, among others.

And then, of course, there is the breaking news “angle”. Traditional news and media houses all boast that they cover “breaking news NOW!”; Twitter actually and very quietly does so most effectively, and in actual real time. The Iranian election fiasco and subsequent crackdown last year? Twitter was how news got out about it. A little closer to home, people on Twitter got news of the Haiti earthquake before every news outlet: Haitians tweeted seconds after it happened, and those messages were picked up and re-tweeted around the world literally minutes after it happened. In its aftermath, Twitter carried messages from people buried, literally saving lives. For people like me, living abroad, Twitter helps me keep up with what’s going on in the Caribbean faster and better than most media – from the drought in Trinidad to when it’s raining in Barbados to what beach conditions are in Grenada to life as a teacher in St. Vincent to the latest up-and-coming fashion photographer in Jamaica.

As a pretty serious amateur photographer, I am connected to other photographers. As a father, I am connected to other parents. As a politics junkie, I am connected to people on all sides of a political debate (and who have those debates – stridently – on Twitter). As a West Indian born and bred in Trinidad and Tobago, I am connected to an ever-growing army of people who understand me when I tweet in dialect. And as a human being, I am connected to countless people (actually, 330 and counting) that I otherwise would never had knew existed – and who I wish I could know better. Twitter is making that happen. 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, @TriniLikeSalt has to go tweet about… something.


Find Outlish on Twitter @outlishmagazine.


 

Photo credit: Bagel Me!

 

2 Comments

  1. Kari Cobham

    @KariWrites

    April 16, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    *round of applause*

  2. Carlos | Social media asesores

    July 7, 2011 at 3:27 am

    Thanks for this good qualitative report of twitter use in T&T. However, there is any quantitative data about social media penetration in T&T? We are very interested into dig on that numbers, both from the academic and commercial perspective.

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