Twitter, as a chamber of instant reactions and off-the-cuff musings, is in some way a mirror of true character. Not to mention a yardstick of history. In 2012 many a true color was shown via 140 characters. From the good, the bad, and the Donald, here are the social-media site’s winners and losers of the year.
“Four more years”
When Obama’s social-media team picked out the newly reelected president’s victory picture, they didn’t expect it to skyrocket into legendary Twitter territory. The touching photo of Barack and Michelle in a serene embrace quickly became the most popular tweet of all time—retweeted more than 800,000 times in 200 countries around the world. Here’s the story behind the making of Twitter’s most viral photo.
“I’m safely on the surface of Mars. GALE CRATER I AM IN YOU!!!” was the first official tweet issued from the little rover that could, upon landing on the Red Planet this August. The Mars Curiosity rover was soon a beloved Twitter sensation, racking up celebrity fans like Britney Spears, who asked if Mars looked the same as it did in her “Oops! ... I Did It Again” music video. “Hey Brit Brit. Mars is still looking good. Maybe someday an astronaut will bring me a gift, too. Drill bits crossed ;),” the machine replied.
Say what you may about the religious leader’s lacking Twitter creativity, Pope Benedict XVI’s presence is a step in the right direction in terms of trying to connect with modern society. “Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart,” he wrote via iPad (!) from the Vatican. And now, could the pope be competing with Twitter mogul Justin Bieber? According to the Vatican, the pontiff beat out J. Biebs in terms of the percentage of followers retweeting his tweets, whatever that is.
Justin Bieber is better known for his, let’s say, slightly ego-centric tweets. But in September, the singer sent out this touching tribute to a young fan who had died of a rare brain cancer. Calling her “one of the greatest spirits I have ever known,” Bieber wrote, “RIP Avalanna. i love you.” It was retweeted so many times by his Belieber following that it took the slot of second-most-popular tweet of the year. Bieber had first met Avalanna earlier in the year, after flying her and her mom out to hang out with him. At the time, he hashtagged her #MrsBieber.
A Giant Dedication
When tragedy struck Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., an outpouring of support resonated across the country. One man in particular made an extraordinary effort to reach out to the family of Jack Pinto, a young victim who had been a huge fan. “Today’s game is for you Jack,” Giants player Victor Cruz tweeted with pictures of his cleats inscribed with the boy’s name. Cruz later traveled to Newtown to visit Jack’s family. “Much love to the Pinto family,” Cruz tweeted after the visit. “Great people with huge hearts. I’m sorry again for your loss. Looking at life through a different lens.”
Mitt’s Storm Tips
This was quite a year for parody accounts, from Invisible Obama during Clint Eastwood’s stunt at the Republican National Convention, to unemployed Big Bird in the debates. But one hashtag trumped them all, and was the perfect portrayal of an out-of-touch candidate during the time Obama was boosting his support, was #MittsStormTips. Soon @RomneyStormTips was created to collect the best of tips for the 1 percent. “My thoughts and prayers go out to 53% of you,” one of the tweets read.
It’s hard to pick a specific worst moment from the man who tweets his own quotes and self-promotion for a cologne called “Success” and continues the birther movement long, long past its time. The Donald was at his worst election night, when he demanded a revolution over Obama’s win. “This election is a total sham and travesty. We are not a democrazy!” he tweeted furiously, with more rants rolling in every few minutes. A close runner up: his inexplicable obsession with Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson often displayed in his tweets. Luckily a best of the worst has been compiled here.
“Jewish owned press”
Rupert Murdoch’s tweets often air on the side of controversial, but his musings about Jewish media owners struck a nerve with many. “Why Is Jewish owned press so consistently anti- Israel in every crisis?” he tweeted, incited outrage across social media and news sites. But to be fair to the media mogul, his action-oriented tweet after the Sandy Hook school shooting asking “When will politicians find courage to ban automatic weapons?” was inspiring progress from the conservative.
As Hurricane Sandy loomed over the East Coast, not everyone was offering good wishes for those in the storm’s path. The always-insightful Lindsay Lohan tweeted—probably from her pool in sunny LA or a parole hearing—this gem: “WHY is everyone in SUCH a panic about hurricane (I’m calling it Sally)..? Stop projecting negativity! Think positive and pray for peace.” A close runner-up was a request from Lohan to President Obama asking him to “cut [taxes] for those listed on Forbes as ‘millionaires’ if they are not.”
Another wholesome child star turned troubled tabloid actress knew who to turn to when she landed in a bit of legal trouble: President Barack Obama. “Hey @BarackObama... I don’t drink,” she tweeted. “Please fire the cop who arrested me. I also don’t hit and run. The end.” We may never know if her desperate pleas were based in truth—victims of two separate alleged hit-and-runs settled the lawsuits with the actress, and the charges were dismissed. Now about those DUI and driving-without-a-license allegations …
“Take them teeth out”
Chris Brown can’t seem to stay out of trouble, online or off. When writer Jenny Johnson responded insultingly to one of his tweets, he fired back some incredibly disgusting and degrading things that someone charged with beating his girlfriend should probably not be saying publicly. We’ll leave the obscenities to your imagination, but you can check out the back-and-forth rantings of a madman here.
Twitter is an amazing forum for breaking news, but sometimes it can do more harm than good. Thus was the case of @Comfortabysmug, the Twitter user who spread a slew of misinformation as the worst of Hurricane Sandy was slamming New York. Starting his tweets with “BREAKING” he wrote that the New York Stock Exchange was flooding, Con Edison was shutting down all of Manhattan’s power, and Governor Cuomo was trapped in the city—all of which were false. He ended up outed and resigning from his post as campaign manager for a New York congressional hopeful, but many of his reports were picked up, and the damage had been done.