'For the First Time, Every Voice Matters'

Social media like Twitter and Facebook are changing society, and some of those changes were discussed at a conference in Jaffa.

TechIsrael Staff,

Jeff Pulver
Jeff Pulver
Israel National News Photo: Yoni Kempinski

To hear internet entrepreneur Jeff Pulver tell it, the communication revolution we are currently going through – with the growth of social media like Facebook, Twitter, and many others – is a very spiritual one that is opening new doors to understanding and perception for people around the world. “There have been many iisms; throughout history, Communism, Fascism, Capitalism. 

"The current revolution is 'internetism,'” he says, and it's a revolution that is having as profound an effect on humanity – and perhaps even more of an effect – than those other social movements did.

Some aspects of that revolution were on display Wednesday at the “140 Character Conference,” an ongoing series of events worldwide organized by Pulver to discuss the impact of social media on modern life. This is the third time a conference has been held in Israel, and this year it was held in conjunction with the DLD (Digital Life Design) Conference in Jaffa Port this week.

The name “140 Character Conference” is a reference to the character limit in Twitter messages; as users of the platform know, you need to limit messages (“tweets”) to 140 characters or less. The implication, to many people, is that Twitter – and other social media – is just an abbreviated “promo” for the “real thing,” which of course requires more than 140 characters to communicate. As such, Twitter messages – like the rest of the social media platforms, like Facebook – are rather inconsequential, a sideshow on the internet that will eventually fall by the wayside when the next big thing comes along.

Pulver, who was one of the co-founders of Internet communication company Vonage, and who authored what became the first FCC ruling in the U.S. regarding internet telephony, thought at one time that social media was a passing fad as well.

“I used to think these platforms were transitory, that these platforms would evolve into something else,” he told Arutz 7 at the conference. “What I didn't realize is that we are living through a true social revolution.”

As revolutions will, this one affects many aspects of life, and much of the conference was dedicated to analyzing those effects. Subjects discussed included how social media affects education, art, the news, social protests, work, politics, charity, and music. Each discussion featured a company that was involved in that particular segment of social media – defined as enabling and encouraging interaction with users. Presenters included top personalities in Israeli media and society - Guy Zohar of Channel 10 news and Alon Idan of Ha'aretz, for example – as well as some of the entrepreneurs behind companies and services using social media in creative ways – such as Alon Nir of Tweet Your Prayers, which lets you send a Twitter message that gets placed in the Kotel.

For the music segment, Israeli singer Yoni Bloch presented his internet startup, Interlude, which allows users to incorporate their choices into existing music videos, in very creative ways. Thanks to Interlude's software, users can create their own music videos – in essence, messages with music that can say anything. Post one on Youtube, and you've got a message aimed at a loved one, a group of friends – or the whole world. It's a good example, Pulver says, “of what happens when people can communicate directly with each other, when barriers to entry and the gatekeepers slowly go away. It's the first time in our human history that people realize that every voice matters.”