How can you tell 2012 has begun with a bang? Just log onto Twitter: the hot topics since Jan. 1 are a Venn diagram of American life—from pop culture to politics, to sports and even race relations. It’s beginning to feel an awful lot like looking into a microcosm not too dissimilar to those sea monkey kits we cried enough about to have Mom and Dad buy one, only to have it sitting in garage next to whatever Santa had brought us the year before. In fact, Twitter has morphed into This American Life. Well, again, for sea monkeys. At least there’s a community spirit in the barrage of 140-character thought bubblettes: it’s one of the few times that you’ll find New Yorkers venturing outside their insular world and joining in the national dialogue … even if it’s only online and it turns out that our sea monkeys are just brine shrimp with great marketing.
So here was your week on Twitter.
Sunday night (New Year’s Day), 60 percent of your social network updates were composed of armchair commentary on the Giants-Cowboys game, while the remaining 40 percent debated whether Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich would win the Iowa caucus. (Here’s a scary fact: Tim Tebow had the second most tweets per second about his 80-yard overtime touchdown pass, with 9,420 messages going up almost simultaneously.) Then whatever percentage of people who didn’t care about football or politics traded gossip about whether or not Beyoncé had secretly given birth already.
Monday evening was a 50-50 split between up-to-the-nanosecond reactions to the Iowa polls and equally fervent up-to-the-nanosecond reactions to The Bachelor.
Wednesday saw Twittersphere explode with the triple-whammy of dark-horse Rick Santorum tying for first place in Iowa and two celebrities activating (or in one case, reactivating) their accounts. Kanye West, who quit the social networking service several months back, hopped back on to give the world the gift of whatever crazy thing popped into his head. For example, iPhones! “Instead of kicking kids out of schools for using there iPhones … why not promote it? Allow kids to use search engines to do test … like the real WORLD!!! Give kids the amount of test they would have in a year in one day but they have to get everything perfect …” Steve Jobs in iHeaven, are you listening?
Joy to the world’s satirists, who now have that much more material to work with. Also joining Twitter on humpday was media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who quickly amassed 100,000 followers in one day (but chose to follow only six people himself, one of whom was The Observer’s editor, who was promptly unfollowed the following day—possibly because Mr. Murdoch didn’t like being direct messaged questions by curious journalists). Currently his list counts him following four of his own publications, former Village Voice intern Esther Zuckerman, Mark Pincus, Radiolab’s Jad Aumrad, economist Nouriel Roubini, Peggy Noonan, Eric Cantor, Jack Dorsey, a director of MOBY as well as the accounts for AllThingsD and the conservative group Ricochet. Sea monkeys, all around. But maybe Mr. Murdoch is just in a shopping mood and looking to buy a possibly overvalued social networking platform. Again. (Remember MySpace? Barely? Us, neither.)
Thursday Nick Cannon tweeted that his kidneys were shutting down and he was going to the hospital. Jon Huntsman tried to win voters Obama-style by using “new media,’ creating a user account and hashtags for #jonhuntsman, but he really needs to update his social media strategists, since his use of the service could actually be considered spam in the eyes of the all-mighty Twitter. (That’s the beauty of the Twitter policy: it doesn’t matter if you’re selling a free iPad or four years in office. If you’re bothering account members while they’re trying to discuss Downtown Abbey’s latest episode, you’re out of there.)
Saturday, of course, was officially Beyoncé Baby Day, when, for several hours, we all believed the child’s name to be Ivy Blue Carter. Thankfully, Gwyneth Paltrow took to Twitter and corrected us: It was Blue Ivy, Twitter. Phew, thanks for clearing that up! Then Alec Baldwin pulled a Kanye and returned to his 140-character fan base just in time to promote the 30 Rock premiere this week.
And then it was Sunday again, a clean slate where we can look forward to a whole new week of Bachelor commentary, Tim Tebow touchdowns, outrage over Rick Santorum’s latest round of homophobic statements and hashtags for #stuffgirlssay.
God bless America, the Internet and sea monkeys.