The Year In Twitter 2012: The Best, The Worst, The Ridiculous

on December 31 2012 2:37 PM
Twitter Fail Whale
Twitter's infamous Fail Whale was nowhere to be found during the surge of tweets on election night. Twitter

With major events such as the Summer Olympics, the presidential election and Superstorm Sandy exploding across Twitter over the last 12 months, 2012 became the year that many people finally found they can no longer ignore the microblogging social network. For many others, that moment came long ago, when the service first blew up at the SXSW Conference in Austin, Tex., in 2006. But either way you look at it, Twitter has become unmatched in its ability to share information and tap into the world’s conversations. It’s almost hard to believe that -- at Pew Internet’s last count in February -- only 15 percent of Internet users actually use the service. Nevertheless, IBTimes felt it necessary to cull the best, worst and most ridiculous Twitter-born moments of 2012.

The Best:

Brad Live-Tweets An Acid Trip

Thousands of fellow Twitter users followed @hella_brad on his Hunter S. Thompson-esque journey to a frat barbeque. Along the way, he tweeted such misadventures as eating ice cream in a bookstore, watching blades of grass blow in the breeze and discovering that “shiny things are radiantly shiny.” You can tell things got intense when he started to use all-caps. Relive Brad’s experiences on Storify.   

USC’s Twitter Sentiment Analysis

University of Southern California’s Annenberg Innovation Lab lived up to its name this year with its “Twitter Sentiment Analysis,” which captured the mood of tweeters throughout the 2012 presidential election. In September, the lab’s directory, Jon Taplin, told IBTimes that the results quantified something many of us already suspect: The country is highly polarized when it comes to politics. “The volume on Twitter spikes around a certain topic,” he said. “But it’s split.” It’s nice to have scientific proof.   

Relief For Superstorm Sandy Victims

It’s hard to imagine anything good coming from a hurricane that caused some $60 billion in damage and knocked out power for 8 million people, but one thing the historic storm proved was Twitter’s usefulness as a tool for spreading aid. (As the New York Times’ David Carr put it, the storm “slapped the sarcasm out of Twitter.”) When Sandy made landfall near Atlantic City, N.J., on Oct. 29, many viewed the social network as one of the first places to turn to in an emergency. The #sandy hashtag was used to share updates about power outages, transit disruptions and other critical information. After the hurricane, Twitter continued to play a vital role in relief efforts, helping nonprofits corral volunteers and connecting victims with the resources they needed.

Barack Obama’s ‘Four More Years’ Tweet

Shortly after news outlets called the election, the newly re-elected President Obama posted a message with just three simple words (“Four More Years”) and a photo of he and his wife locked in a celebratory embrace. Within a few hours, it became the most popular, most re-tweeted message in Twitter’s history, and just like that, more than 18 months of bitter election-fueled polarization seemed to wash away. Suddenly we didn’t seem so divided. 

Randi Zuckerberg’s Family Photo Fiasco

The photo itself was harmless enough: It featured Facebook’s royal family, including Mark, huddled in a kitchen, reacting to the new “Poke” app. But the fallout was undeniably poetic when a subscriber to Randi Zuckerberg’s Facebook page assumed the photo was public and tweeted it for the world to see. Randi called the move “way uncool,” but the subscriber was genuinely clueless about why, and the whole misunderstanding pointed to some important privacy gaps in Facebook’s default settings. If the former marketing director of the company can’t figure them out, who can?

The Worst:

Bret Easton Ellis’s ‘Douchiness’

Bret Easton Ellis has been a self-professed Twitter provocateur for some time, but this month the author of “Less Than Zero” outdid himself when he sparked controversy with a series of sexist tweets aimed at “Zero Dark Thirty” filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow. “If ‘The Hurt Locker’ had been directed by a man it would not have won the Oscar for best director,” he said about the only woman in history ever to win an Oscar for best director. After a dustup, some predictable soul searching and a humble explanation on the Daily Beast, the author was right back at it the following week, tweeting that Bigelow’s new film is the “most morally dubious, obtuse and overrated movie of 2012.”

Andrew Goldman Vs. Jennifer Weiner

When the novelist Jennifer Weiner called out the New York Times columnist Andrew Goldman for his habit of accusing famous women of sleeping their way to the top, Goldman didn’t turn the other cheek. Instead, he responded by saying Weiner herself wished she could sleep her way to the top. Things got uglier from there, with a back-and-forth exchange (since removed) that ended in an obscenity-laced outburst from Goldman. The writer apologized, but that didn’t stop Margaret Sullivan, the Times’ public editor, from suspending him for a month. Another writer, another sexist tirade, another day on Twitter.

Chris Brown Vs. Jenny Johnson

Earlier this month, Jenny Johnson, a Houston-based comedy writer, got into a vicious Twitter spat with the terminally troubled Chris Brown. The feud began with Johnson calling Brown a “worthless piece of s--t,” and it escalated with Brown telling her to “take them teeth out when u sucking my d--k.” It ended with the singer apparently deleting his account. Many of Brown’s 11.6 million followers retaliated swiftly and decisively with a torrent of angry tweets against Johnson. Some posted vulgar insults, others death threats. All that would have been fine entertainment had Brown not returned to Twitter two days later, but he did, and that puts this Twitter kerfuffle decidedly in the “bad” column.

Every Tweet By Rupert Murdoch

The chief of News Corp. (Nasdaq:NWSA) opened a Twitter account about a year ago, and ever since, he’s had media journalists working overtime to cover the ecosphere of chatter around his Twitter-born gaffes. (His assertion last month that the “Jewish-owned press” has been purposely skewing coverage of the Israel-Gaza conflict took the cake.) One hopes that the public is finally growing bored and that, come 2013, the media will not treat every Murdoch tweet like a news event. No pun intended.

The Ridiculous:

Mitt Romney’s ‘Binders Full Of Women’

It’s still unclear how this offhand comment made by then-candidate Mitt Romney became a thing. Granted, when Romney remarked during the Town Hall-style debate that women’s groups brought him “binders full of women” who were good job candidates, it wasn’t his most graceful moment, but as far as Romney gaffes go, it was mildly awkward at best. Many viewers barely noticed the comment. Still, the @RomneysBinder account was created minutes later, and by the end of the debate it had reportedly amassed more than 30,000 followers. (There’s also a Tumblr, Facebook page and of course memes galore.) And just to prove how random it all was, that same account is now down to less than 6,900. Fame is fickle, especially on Twitter.

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