When Twitter first started, the question was “What are you doing? (reply in 140 characters or less)”
Many took the question literally. So there were a lot of people writing short posts that were like short snippets of their diary. “Going to the movies” or “Meeting with bff” are examples of common Tweets that are literal answers to the question.
But like all tools, people began to see that Twitter could be more than a chronicle of one’s daily events. It was more than an outlet of raves and rants. Twitter users started to find innovative ways of communicating, even creating their own “utilities” such as hashtags and retweets. For many, Twitter became an important source of information, like a newsfeed where one could subscribe to a number of news providers. This prompted many legacy news organizations as well as bloggers, corporate PR and anyone who wanted their information out there to join Twitter.
Twitter also proved to be handy in crowdsourcing information, a live citizen news feed for the Mumbai terrorist attacks (although it also played a part in actually helping the terrorists) and also a place to publicly share emotions and opinions, like for the death of Michael Jackson.
Now, Twitter’s question reads: “What’s happening?” It is not specific to the user’s experience, and although one could certainly keep talking about personal things, this seems to signal a shift in micro-blogging culture– a shift from “me” to “us.” How will this affect status updates? Will we see a trend in less self-related Tweets? How much does the official question affect what people write? What new ways will we see users repurpose Twitter for yet another communicative purpose? The question posed in Facebook’s status update is “What’s on your mind?” reflecting Twitter’s initial question about the individual. If the microblogging trend is going towards collective information, then perhaps Facebook will soon change its question too.