Is a tweet louder than a headline?

Charlie Drayton


In the digital age, novels and newspapers are losing their influence, with some suggesting the death of great literature altogether. Yet the 140 characters of a tweet can start revolutions, bring down governments and connect people around the world.

The Sydney Jewish Museum hosted an event on Wednesday: Telegrams to Twitter: The Changing Face of Communication. A panel of distinguished journalists, lawyers and authors spoke about the ways writers navigate through the digital sphere.

While newspapers slowly turn into wrapping for fish and chips, the number of bloggers, tweeters, tumblrs and Instagramers has boomed. Everyone can be a journalist these days, a situation which Daniel Grynberg, panelist, lawyer and Chief Executive Officer of the Sydney Jewish Community believes is a unique challenge for professional communicators.

“It seems that in earlier forms of communication there was more space for people’s real lives,” he said. “I think that perhaps now, we are already starting to witness the death of the paragraph… as Twitter takes us into a post-textual world.”

Social media is essentially a new form of dialogue. Every second, on average, around 6,000 tweets are distributed on Twitter, which corresponds to over 350,000 tweets sent per minute, 500 million tweets per day and around 200 billion tweets per year.

And as Gen Y turn to videos and graphics as their ready source of learning, the demand for good writing is going out of fashion quicker than a Dolly Parton concert. Adele Horin, the veteran Sydney Morning Herald journalist, believes the Internet has transformed the way our lives are documented and the way in which people voice their opinions.

“Historians and biographers in 100 years time will have an amazing trove of material out there, if they can winnow through it and technically access it. There has never been a time when there has been such an explosion of personal writing,” Ms Horin said.

For a writer, social media can open up a whole new realm of possibilities to further enhance an author’s status and online readership, she said: “Since I’ve been writing my blog… I’m much more in tune with my readers and the comments they make are intelligent. I seem to have the most fabulous people who add to the conversation.”

Kerri Sackville, popular Australian author and columnist has had a similar response to social media and believes it does not diminish the value of the written word, but instead encourages people to join the discussion.

“I now know who my audience is and that’s the difference between social media and writing a newspaper column; it’s very reciprocal, people write back to me and I’m engaging in dialogue,” Ms Sackville said.

“It will give historians a much wider perspective because they are not only seeing the piece which has been written, but they’re also seeing the feedback from readers. I think it gives a far greater historical perspective of the community, instead of just what one journalist is saying.”

Ms Sackville said while there is a growing pool of people who consider themselves as authors, the online sphere is also a crucial platform. “Social media is a fascinating place for people to go who have been disenfranchised, because they can share their own voice and enjoy their own community,” she said.

“For example, parents with kids with autism have a massive community online where they can talk to each other and share their stories. When I was young I grew up primarily around fellow Jews. It’s opened up my eyes to all sorts of people and allowed me to forge relationships with those who are completely different to me – I think social media is invaluable for that.”

While online channels are often used to create a fabricated identity or lifestyle, the Internet can also be a precious tool to engage people from various demographics and cultures. On a personal level, you can transform yourself from an everyday hacker into a viral sensation via something that doesn’t even constitute a full sentence – that’s the beauty of it.

Have you ever wondered why everyone starts off as an egg when creating a Twitter account? Well, maybe we’re all just waiting to be hatched.