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Yuri Chang | I hate you, but I love you

R.I.P. Fail Whale

Published: Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 08:11

Is it official? The two places I checked to be sure: Fox News and Twitter. On the night of the election at 11:17 p.m. ET, Fox News officially announced that Barack Obama had indeed won the election, regardless of Karl Rove’s awkward self−denial. Several minutes later at 11:20 p.m., the official Obama twitter account (@BarackObama) tweeted the words “Four more years,” along with a photo of Barack and Michelle locked in beautiful power−couple embrace.

At that exact minute, people posted nearly 875,000 election−related tweets, averaging at approximately 15,107 tweets per second, a record−shattering high for Twitter.

The folks at Twitter had plenty to celebrate that night. In Twitter’s earlier days, the “fail whale” page used to greet users when Twitter went over capacity. Luckily, the frustrating sea mammal didn’t show up even once throughout Election Night 2012 despite Twitter’s off−the−charts activity.

A couple of hours after Obama had officially won and Twitter’s servers were in the clear, Twitter Creative Director Doug Bowman posted his pithy victory tweet, “R.I.P., Fail Whale,” encapsulating what I imagine to be the Twitter team sighing of relief and then proceeding to rage in their San Francisco headquarters.

Nate Silver, who I’m assuming is now the New York Times’ Golden Boy, also indulged in a victory tweet after having correctly predicted Obama’s performance in the polls across all 50 states by using statistics.

“This is probably a good time to link to my book,” Silver tweeted after his estimates proved to be 100−percent accurate.

It was a successful night for Obama in the Twitterverse as well. After he won the election, Obama’s campaign staffers released the photo of Obama hugging his wife with a caption that read “Four more years.” Although only Michelle’s back is visible in the photo, the President’s facial expression exudes love and gratitude, perhaps making the photo’s message that much more powerful. Within three hours of being published, the tweet was shared over 472,000 times and crushed Justin Bieber’s previous record for the most re−tweeted tweet ever. Thank you Twitter, for renewing my faith in America.

Perhaps Twitter’s biggest loser that night was Donald Trump, who went on an angry tweeting rant when Obama was announced winner. Trump tweeted that “this election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy!” He even tried to incite a revolution by posting, “[Let’s] fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! The world is laughing at us.”

He later went back and deleted some of these tweets, but of course in the age of the Internet permanently erasing is no longer an option. NBC News’ Brian Williams attacked some of Trump’s tweets on air, saying he had “driven well past the last exit to relevance and veered into something closer to irresponsible.” Leave it to Donald Trump, America’s favorite multi−billionaire clown, to provide you with a regular dosage of crazy.

This column started as a place for me to publicly air my woes against social media, and Twitter was admittedly number one on my hit list. I found its form to be too short, sporadic and self−promoting to amount to anything of substance. I wanted people to join me in denouncing their Twitter accounts and all things #hashtag.

However, the presidential election and the death of the Fail Whale have caused me to reconsider my war against Twitter and acknowledge that our methods of communication are becoming more dynamic and interactive, and — I’ll admit it — that they’re changing for the better.

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Yuri Chang is a senior majoring in international relations. She can be reached at Yuri.Chang@tufts.edu.

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