Pakistanis on Twitter
This is part of my thesis, it was originally supposed to be a literature review, but I have taken out in-text citations and chapter references, and basically turned it in to a blog entry/article. This is part of the over all bigger thesis of mine, where I am doing a research on Pakistani tweeters and their tweeting patterns and behaviours. Also how they react to news.
There are many Pakistani users who come to Twitter to just have a casual chat with their followers (people who read a person’s ‘tweets’) or just tweet their thoughts, or even share information. Pakistani twitter users can be divided in to sub-groups. There are people who mainly blog, then share their blog writing with their Twitter followers, there are people who casually tweet about their thoughts and random stuff, there are people that share informative links on Twitter, but all of these users do have something in common. They comment on news. Any disaster that happens, any abnormal news, some situation that is currently being discussed politically in the news, people on Twitter discuss it too.
Twitter users in Pakistan have not only been using it through web, but using mobile facilities too. Handheld devices these days have a multitude of connectivity options and applications available for a person to go online and make use of social media. Blackberry OS6 has a dedicated ‘Social Feeds’ application which combines all the feeds from Facebook, Twitter etc. in to one application, so you don’t have to use multiple clients to read updates from different social networks. More and more users in Pakistan are turning to mobile devices to access Twitter. People in Pakistan, have turned to social networking websites to express their thoughts and voice their opinions. An educated person in Pakistan with an internet access is more aware about his/her surroundings than before. These days, people no longer rely on only or just national or local media sources; they have easy access to International media as well. People can gather information from Twitter as well. They have a chance to read different viewpoints on the same story. They have a chance to know what people all over the world are saying.
Pakistani Users have also turned to Twitter to express their political views. Time and time again, when something happens, the Pakistani twitter fraternity starts ‘tweeting’ their thoughts and voicing their opinions about it. As soon as President Pervez Musharraf’s emergency rule in 2007 was declared illegal, many people took to Twitter to show their delight or annoyance about the matter. Even though a tweet is restricted to 140 words, it did not stop Pakistani users from filling that networking website with their voice. In the west Twitter is mainly used by college students to tweet about their daily lives, by celebrities etc. too, but in Pakistan, Twitter is mainly used by Professionals and Urban Youth, to express and vent about their political views. Many Pakistani Twitter users agree that, yes indeed people come on to Twitter to express their political views. They also say that there is freedom of expression to a certain extent about what they can say, also the ability to defend their opinion which makes Twitter attractive to them. The Urban Youth of Pakistan also does gain access to informal informative political discussions through twitter shared posts and articles. They have a vast amount of information available to them, so they read and at the same time find Twitter as a suitable medium to take their muddled political frustrations out on.
Something that is helpful in measuring, how many people are talking about a particular topic, is the hash tag ability. Let us take the Pakistani floods for example. When the floods happened, people tweeted about it. Mostly the news is secondary, from what they have heard from the television channels or the newspapers. Some of it is original news, people tweeting from on the scene, or being eyewitness to some incident happening due to the floods and tweeting that. Many people also took photographs and uploaded those on to Twitter. On the day something happens in Pakistan, more Twitter users use the hash tag #Pakistan. Even when the floods happened, a lot more people used the hash tag #Pakistan to make it easier for people to search for news and tweets related to the Pakistani floods.
Pakistani Tweeters used Twitter to spread awareness about the Pakistani floods around the world, making the hash tag #Pakistan part of the top 10 trends on Twitter as well. Many charity organisations voiced their desire for donations towards the floods through Twitter as well, successfully. Even though most of the people are Tweeting, a lot of people just re-tweet another person’s tweet, instead of being the original source of information. This phenomenon of re-tweeting helps spread information to lots of people on Twitter. This is how the media principle of diffusion of information through communication channels can be explained. One person sends out a message (posts a tweet), the follower (message receiver) receives it in their time line and either replies to the tweet (feedback) or re-tweets it. This way, more people get to know about the message on Twitter, than just the original intended receiver. This is the method by which information diffuses on Twitter and spreads. More and more people re-tweet the original post, hence more people getting to know about it.
The problem with freedom of expression and the ability to say anything on Twitter in Pakistan is that, the government can easily ban the website and restrict people from doing so. Even though more and more Pakistanis are using Twitter as a medium to voice their opinions, spread information and awareness to other people, use Twitter as a social networking platform, also stir up political debates etc. on Twitter regarding Pakistan and things happening in Pakistan and this is not illegal, the government can be sneaky and ban the website. In that way people cannot use Twitter to voice their political thoughts and debate about news. The government can ban Twitter website or few accounts on the website, on the grounds on it containing blasphemous content and in this way, people can’t even do anything about it, but wait for the government to unban the website, when they deem fit.