On Monday afternoon, Osage City Elementary School teacher CJ Marple, with the help of his third-grade students, sent a tweet into the universe.
“I am a 3rd grade teacher in Kansas,” Marple tweeted. “I am trying to teach my class about the power of Twitter and how fast information can spread. If you could RT this tweet/comment where you are reading from I would really appreciate it. I am planning to share results with them on 1/12. Thanks!”
In class, Marple and his students had been talking about information and technology. His third-grade students are still too young to be avid social media users, Marple said, “but they do understand the information can be traveled.”
“That was really the point that I was getting across, that information can go viral,” Marple said. “So I said, ‘Let’s make a tweet and let’s see how far we can go.’”
Marple plugged his iPhone to the class projector and together he and his students crafted a tweet around 2 p.m. on Monday.
Within minutes, Marples best friend in Oklahoma retweeted the message, and Marple informed his class that the tweet had made it to Oklahoma.
No way, his students said.
By the end of recess, an hour later, the students were amazed to learn that the tweet had been picked up in Rochester, New York. Overnight, the message continued to spread.
As of Wednesday evening, the tweet had been shared more than 208,000 times and liked by more than 145,000 people. Thousands of replies rolled in from around the world, including from journalist Soledad O’Brien, actor Eric Stonestreet and Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran.
Twitter users from the United States and several countries sent messages to Marple’s classroom from places such as York, England, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Washington Township, NJ and Alberta, Canada.
They tweeted from a government hospital in Penang, Malaysia. Replied from Uganda, Australia and Scotland. Shared pictures of the London Library, Japanese drinking mugs and a street in Nairobi, Kenya.
Marple began putting sticky notes on a classroom map to mark where those who had replied are from. But he had to stop because he couldn’t keep up with the volume.
While coaching a junior high basketball game on Monday night, Marple realized that Stonestreet, a Kansas City native who plays Cam on Modern Family, had also done his part. He retweeted Marple’s message at the singer Adele, a producer at the Ellen DeGeneres show and Pope Francis.
Dana Perino, political commentator and former White House Press Secretary for George W. Bush, also retweeted the message from her apartment in Manhattan. Bianca Kajlich, an actress who played Jennifer on the sitcom Rules of Engagement, tweeted from Venice Beach.
Other Twitter users shared some details about where they live and work.
Some gave advice for navigating social media.
“One piece of unsolicited advice for ‘em,” said a Twitter user named Marisa from Washington D.C. “What you write and how you act stays with you over time. So think very carefully before hitting send/tweet/post.”
It’s a message that Marple himself has thought about. While the majority of the responses have been kind and friendly, he said some users have perused through his Twitter feed, and sent critical messages related to views he has shared in the past on the platform. (In a sideshow totally typical of Twitter, a writer for The Jimmy Kimmel Show criticized Marple’s views, then found herself the subject of a barrage of tweets from those defending Marple.)
Marple said he wants his students to know that “life’s too short” to get upset by people who are unkind. But also how quickly information can go around the world.
“We’re in tiny Osage City,” Marple said. “They don’t quite understand until I show them on the map everywhere people have seen the tweet.”