All social media platforms might fulfill the same desire to feel important and validated, but different formats have proven useful to different people. Based around aesthetic appeal, Instagram popularity comes to models, makeup artists, and fitspo-providing personal trainers. Tumblr is an online diary for the emotive people, while Facebook is so ubiquitous it’s like a personnel file: everyone’s got one, and they’re mostly boring. To many, Twitter appears to be the online version of a mass gathering where everyone talks and nobody listens.
When Twitter was launched in 2006, the response of many was: I already have somewhere to post the daily minutia of my life! It’s called a Facebook status update, and I get more than 140 characters to complain about [insert mild daily annoyance here]!
But thanks to that character limit and open posting concept, Twitter became a space where creatives and comedians thrived. Funny people came to contribute pithy observations, hilarious one-liners, and absurdist vignettes, turning Twitter into the Internet’s underground comedy club. Anyone could do a set, as long as they kept it short.
For artist and writer Robin McCauley Lynch (@RobinMcCauley), her tweeting began without any goals or expectations. “When I started tweeting in 2009, most of us on there were just doing it for laughs. It was a really fun thing at the time with no pressure.” But by tweeting jokes that deftly fit humorous observations into the brief format, her material started appearing on TV and in major online and print publications, while her Twitter handle became a regular on lists of funny people to follow.
Now with more than fifty thousand followers, Robin’s tweets have been featured on Sapling Press greeting cards, and helped her land jobs assisting head writers and show-runners for TV shows like Fox’s “The Grinder”, starring Rob Lowe and Fred Savage. Robin quips that her “specific career goal to someday meet Rob Lowe came true. Thanks, Twitter!”
The landscape of Twitter has changed throughout its ten years online, climbing from 30 million monthly active users in 2010 to more than 300 million by 2015. A member since 2009, Robin’s impression is that the venue has changed drastically.
“It’s a really different arena now than it was in 2009. Really different. I think recently it has turned into more of a ‘competition’ thing — maybe because people now know that Twitter CAN get you writing jobs.”
With dwindling growth and concerns that the site ignores user suggestions for streamlining the platform and protecting from abuse, many are asking if Twitter is dying, but for now, the prognosis seems premature. What started as a place to just shout your thoughts into the abyss and hear what came echoing back has become more like the LinkedIn for creative minds to prove why they deserve to be funny for a living.
For Nick Ross (@NickBossRoss), a writer from Edmonton with more than fifteen thousand followers, Twitter is undeniably an attempt at gaining recognition.
“Everyone on Twitter wants to be famous. At least the social circle I’m a part of. We write jokes every hour of every day in hopes someone higher up than us sees us. I’ve been given internships with late night TV shows because of my Twitter and have known a couple people that now write with shows that were first noticed because of their Twitter account.”
But for Twitter users hoping to turn favorites and retweets into paid gigs, Nick’s advice is guarded. “It’s totally possible but it’s very rare you could get a job based solely on your Twitter alone. Twitter builds you an audience but you have to be proactive enough to write and work hard to build content for that audience. When it comes down to it though, if you’re a good writer, people will notice.”
Somewhere between the frenetic mass gathering and no-pressure comedy club, Twitter’s present status is like one big writers’ room, where everyone is auditioning for a job. The casual user may be losing interest in Twitter, but for the artists and writers, comedians and absurdists, this open venue still offers the best chance of being noticed.