Twitter proved itself an invaluable news source again Sunday night.
News of Osama Bin Laden's deathmay have been spotted on the popular messaging site first. In fact, one man even live tweetedthe raid which killed the Al Qaeda leader, not realizing the monumental news at hand.
You'll hear a lot this week about Twitter's news value. However, I'm blogging about its flip side. If Twitter has changed the flow of information to us, it has also changed the flow of information from us. Never before have people had such a platform to react.
Some Americans went to Ground Zero or the White House Sunday night.
Most went to Twitter and Facebook.
And after the initial shock and awe, we started to see that quintessentially American reaction: jokes.
There were no jokes after 9/11. The laughter died that day and didn't come back for weeks. But this time, Americans were on the winning side. And "winning!", a la Charlie Sheen, became an instant catchphrase on Twitter after news of Bin Laden's death sunk in. The joke was real, which made it both funny and wonderful.
Is it wrong to laugh at any man's death? I'll leave that for you to judge. But Americans can't help themselves — in good times and bad, we crack wise.
Here are some examples of tweets I saw:
- "Looks like Osama Bin Laden signed up for Foursquare on the wrong day."
- "Osama Bin Laden has unlocked the 72 virgins badge on Foursquare." (Lots of tweets about Foursquare and GPS tracking in iPhones.)
- "America: 'I see your royal wedding and raise you 1 OSAMA BIN LADEN'. England: *fold*"
- "The DOJ got him because they found out he was running an online poker room."
- "OBL done in finally by Google Street View."
- "dialysis machine already on EBAY, no "buy it now'."
- “OSAMA BIN LADEN'S DEATH IN TWITTER FORM: Knock knock. Who's there? 40 Navy SEALs. Oh s#%t!”
"To celebrate the death of Osama Bin Laden, tomorrow Starbucks will offer a .99 cent Osama Bin Latte" joked @JustinStangel, head writer for David Letterman, perhaps previewing the kind of humor we can expect tonight on television.
Yes, the pros were out in force last night on Twitter ("Slow news day" tweeted Steve Martin), but the site also allowed rank amateurs to have at it. Some went too far, some weren't funny. Some were clueless, like @ParisHilton. She apparently tweeted without first checking the latest on Twitter. "Back in LA. Can't wait to get home to my pets. I miss my babies," she wrote as the rest of us were mesmerized by much bigger issues. Meantime, the east coast never found out who got voted off "Celebrity Apprentice", as NBC broke into programming (spoiler: it was Hope). No one complained, though many joked on Twitter that Donald Trump wouldn't believe the news until he saw Osama Bin Laden's death certificate.
When you hear that joke from Leno or Letterman or Conan or Kimmel tonight, remember you first heard it on Twitter, from some average Joe.