My Twitter highlights of 2015

With more and more buzz around “serious” news stories, Twitter is increasingly driving the news agenda and journalists ignore the social network at their peril. Here are some of my personal highlights from the Twittersphere in 2015.


In the hours after the Charlie Hebdo terror attack in January, the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie spread around the world with incredible speed. It seemed a perfect way to convey solidarity with the slain cartoonists. They were household names in France and they died for their ideas: namely, the right to caricature and satire.
But cracks soon appeared in this show of unity, as some people felt they could not agree with the French cartoonists’ stance of mocking - or simply portraying - the Muslim Prophet Mohammed. The counter-hashtag #JeNeSuisPasCharlie sprang up and became associated with those French schoolchildren who refused to observe a minute’s silence shortly after the atrocity.
Later in the year, the weekly’s controversial cartoon of drowned Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi dealt a further blow to the #JeSuisCharlie sentiment. The same can be said of its controversial drawings of the Russian passenger plane that was blown up by the Islamic State group over Egypt with the loss of 224 lives. The hashtag #JeNeSuisPasCharlie made a resounding comeback on Twitter on both occasions.

The whole episode shows that sadly, one hashtag can be overly simplistic when fraught issues like freedom of speech are at play.


Another notable hashtag appeared in July, after German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a Palestinian refugee girl cry during a televised debate on immigration. Merkel, seeing the 14-year-old was upset, got up and went over to “stroke” her on the back to comfort her. The hashtag #Merkelstreichelt, meaning “Merkel strokes”, was born.

As the video of the encounter shows, Merkel’s reaction to the girl’s tears was somewhat off the mark. “But you did that really well”, she opined at first, referring to the girl’s appearance on the debate. Quick as a flash, the moderator hit back at Merkel: “I don't think, Mrs Chancellor, that it’s about doing really well, but rather that this is a very stressful situation”.

The hashtag was mainly used by Merkel’s critics to mock her.
"Refugee problem solved".
"Greek crisis solved!"

Best newcomer

This one is a toss-up between US President Barack Obama and US whistleblower Edward Snowden. Obama joined Twitter in May, Snowden in September. Both have posted regularly since.
So who matters more, the current US leader or no doubt the most important whistleblower in recent history? With an election to choose his successor less than a year away, surely Obama must win this one.

Best satirical accounts

The handle @manwhohasitall appeared in October and parodies the patronising advice given to women today about how to “have it all”. It doles out “helpful” advice to men as if they were in women’s shoes – a refreshing change of perspective.
The author, whose identity is unknown, describes himself as “a busy dad with three children, an awesome wife and a hectic full-time job”. He also posts “facts” set in a parallel universe where roles are reversed and men are in the current situation of women. The result requires the reader to suspend disbelief but is often hilarious.
What a great way to raise awareness about just how far we still are from true gender equality.

Another amusing satirical account this year, despite the tragic circumstances behind it, was @LogeurDuDaesh. This refers to Jawad Bendaoud, the man who found an apartment for some of the terrorists behind the November 13th Paris attacks which killed 130 people. Five days after the carnage, elite French police stormed the apartment in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis. During the police raid, Bendaoud appeared on French TV channel BFM, saying he had no idea that the people he had put up were terrorists. “I was asked to do a favour, I did a favour”, he pleaded.

The tweets feature the 29-year-old “slumlord” defending himself in this naïve manner.
"I did hear the word grenade [also French for pomegranate] but I first thought of that delicious exotic fruit".
"When they spoke to me about Syria I thought it was that thing for the iPhone [Siri]".

Back in the real world, Bendaoud’s defence has fallen apart - according to French media reports, phone records show he received a call from a Belgian number linked to the terrorists prior to November 13th - and he has now been placed under formal investigation. He has since shifted his line of defence to saying “I suspected [something fishy was up] but I wanted the money”.

Best tweet

It’s difficult to choose a single tweet from the whole year, but one in particular did stand out recently. After US presidential hopeful Donald Trump announced that he wanted to temporarily bar all Muslims from entering the United States, Rick Kriseman, the mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida, had a great comeback.
To see Twitter’s own version of its highlights from 2015 - of which there are simply too many to fit in one blog post - click here.

Thumbnail photo © Pixabay
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