The year in social media: The ultimate news source, Periscope and emojis
Emrah Güler - ANKARALast year proved to be a social year in Turkey, with people in Turkey continuing to be some of the world’s most voracious users of social media. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram continued their reign over social media in Turkey, with more social media accounts than the number of Internet users – 37.7 million active Internet users versus a total of 40 million active social media accounts.
2015 was also the year Twitter’s livestream social media platform Periscope was introduced to Turkish Internet users, bringing forth the exhibitionist streak in thousands of young men in Turkey. Famous names, like entertainers Cem Yılmaz and Demet Akalın, were quick to jump on the bandwagon, collecting as many as 60,000 hearts to their live broadcasts.
Pop singer Soner Sarıkabadayı launched his new single “Unuttun mu Beni” on Periscope, singing it live from his home. State-owned radio and television channel TRT broadcast the first episode of its popular series “Milat” on Periscope as well. But it wasn’t all entertainment on Periscope, as marches, protests and police riots were watched through Periscope. Even the Turkish Parliament used the social media platform to broadcast press conferences live.
It wasn’t just Periscope; all social media platforms proved to be the major source of news in Turkey last year. With 67 percent of internet users taking social media as the preferred source of news, Turkey was number one among 18 countries in the Digital News Report, which is prepared annually by the University of Oxford’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.
In an essay for the Digital News Report, “How Turkey uses social media,” digital strategist Esra Doğramacı and the report’s contributing author Damian Radcliffe wrote about how the struggle went online as the government’s efforts to close social media accounts continued in 2015. “Following a terror attack on 10 October 2015 where nearly 100 people were killed in a bombing in central Ankara, social media users in Turkey found access to Twitter and Facebook hampered,” the essay said in a familiar picture for users in Turkey.
Twitter welcomes refugees
“Subsequently, talk online quickly turned to discussion about how to use VPN’s (Virtual Private Networks) and other methods of circumvention,” continued the essay. “These discussions mirrored those in the early days of the 2013 Gezi Park protests, where similar efforts to close social networks by the government simply led to users bypassing these controls and finding other methods to get online.”
Twitter helped shape and turn the public opinion around the flood of refugees from Syria, with the refugee crisis becoming one of the most talked about topics across the world on the micro-blogging website.
“Brutal images of Syrian boy drowned off Turkey must be seen,” wrote The New York Times’s Twitter account. The tragedy of the little boy, Alan Kurdi (who was first misidentified as Aylan Kurdi), has resonated with Twitter users across the world and in Turkey, #aylankurdi becoming one of the most tweeted hashtags of the year. The writer of the Harry Potter books and an active Twitter user, J.K. Rowling wrote, “If you can’t imagine yourself in one of those boats, you have something missing. They are dying for a life worth living. #refugeeswelcome.”
In Turkey, two young women were the most talked about names on Twitter, a perfect display of the polarized, and perhaps schizophrenic, nature of social media. The two top hashtags were #ÖzgecanAslan and #SelenaForMMVA. The first one referred to the 20-year-old victim of an attempted rape and brutal murder in February that sparked mass protests and campaigns against violence against women. And the second one was the campaign to have American pop singer Selena Gomez become Fan Fave International Artist or Group at the Much Music Video Awards.
But perhaps the superstar of social media in 2015 was the emoji, or more specifically the “Face with Tears of Joy,” chosen as the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2015. Emojis made their journey, in confidence, from the confined spaces of text messages into social media across the world, with Turkish users quickly adapting this new universal language of online interaction. According to research made by FikriMühim, a marketing research agency, four in five social media users now use emojis, with the emoji of the “Face Blowing a Kiss” taking top spot. It’s a nice welcome to the Word of the Year.