10 Pop-Culture Moments of the ’90s That Would’ve Been Better with Twitter

By Kristy Sammis, Cat Lincoln, Stefania Pomponi, Jenny Ng, Edita Gassmann Rodriguez, Judy Zhou

Marketers know that social media has forever changed the way people experience and share pop culture. But it’s easy to forget how much impact social media tools have on your daily life. One of the best ways to truly appreciate the power of social media and the people who use them is to remember what it was like without them.

Consider some of the most epic pop culture events of the ’90s, and how they would have been shaped if Twitter had been around then:

  • The Real World: San Francisco (Season 1): Twitter loves nothing more than a reality series everyone has an opinion about, and The Real World is where it all began. Characters you love to hate? Questionable fashion? Terrible relationship behavior? Scandalous secrets? Oh, it had it all . . . and then some. Countless Twitter hashtags can be attributed to this ruler of reality.

  • The O.J. Simpson car chase: Before the full extent of the tragic events were known, and well before the “trial of the century” began, this was one of the first televised car chases the national news covered in real time. (Did anyone even call it “real time” then?) Imagine if passersby had been able to snap pictures and share them instantly! Perhaps the whole story would have unfolded differently. . . .

  • Ross and Rachel: Reality TV has its sparkle, but juicy scripted shows draw just as much Twitter attention. If only Twitter influencers has been able to chime in during the Ross and Rachel breakup on Friends. Social media could’ve settled the controversy over whether they were truly “on a break” once and for all.

  • Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding: This story carried with it everything Twitter loves: televised sports, scandal, beautiful women — even some conspiracy theories (not to mention salacious video!). No doubt, social media would’ve been responsible for the proliferation of “Why me?” images across the world in a matter of minutes.

  • The Macarena: It wasn’t too long ago that videos of people doing the Harlem Shake turned up all across social media. Given that the Macarena was far more mainstream — and about a thousand times easier to do — the number of videos you never got to see (because it was before Twitter’s time) is a shame. Probably.

  • That time Madonna dated Vanilla Ice: Even the most devoted Madonna fan may have forgotten that she and Vanilla Ice were once a couple. With Twitter, no one would’ve been able to forget — even if they wanted to!

  • Lorena Bobbitt: It’s hard to remember a time before social media, when jokes about current events traveled from coast to coast simply via word of mouth. Yet this was the case with Lorena Bobbitt and her husband’s — erm — comeuppance. If today’s tools for making memes existed then? They’d practically create themselves.

  • Amy Fisher and Mary Jo and Joey Buttafuoco: If it’s a good enough story for several made-for-TV movies, it’s more than good enough for social media. And this crazy situation — with all jokes aside — would’ve ignited heated debate about infidelity, Long Island culture, gun control, and yes, the fury of women scorned.

  • Y2K: The biggest tech glitch in the history of the world (that wasn’t) would’ve reached fever pitch had Twitter been around to support it. Everyone in the world was a bit worried that something terrible would happen, but imagine how much more peaceful it would’ve been to have regular, global check-ins in one central place.

  • Michael Jordan, the great . . . baseball player?: What is now merely a blip in the legendary basketball player and global business great’s past would have ignited a Twitterstorm back in the day. Twitter is the go-to tool for following and commenting on all things sports. To have one of the most historic basketball players leave the game to pursue a minor league baseball career may well have brought Twitter to its knees.

When planning a marketing campaign, consider approaching the plan from the perspective: “What would you do if social media didn’t exist?” And then thank your lucky stars you have this powerful platform to work with!