Day Two of my Blog-a-Day rhythm.
So here’s something hopefully very useful: my learning from a learning session about using Twitter for social change I attended earlier this week.
Ironically, the reason this blog is happening is because of my friend Todd — for two
reasons. First, it was partly because I knew Todd would be going to this class, “#UpReachIndy: Twitter Training, Tweet-a-thon, & Follow Party” Tues nights ago that I decided to peel my butt off the cozy bed, brave the winter night and drive a few blocks over to Kheprw Institute (a very badass community/person empowerment organization). My friend Elle was going too, also an incentive.) Second, by not actually coming to the class (Facebook RSVP’s are so untrustworthy, I swear!), and expressing his regret at missing it, Todd gave me the idea to put out my notes for his and others’ benefit who could not attend.
The class had a cool angle to it, which also got me off my butt much better than your typical “Learn Twitter” workshop may have: “We will learn and practice twitter basics and use our skills to digitally organize around social justice issues.”
The other thing that was neat about this night was how much it reminded me that our inclinations are not always in our best interest. I once heard at a Buddhist meeting that the highest force in the universe is connective — anything that pushes for separation is the opposite of that force, and we should fight it. Very little in me wanted to leave my cocoon of isolation that night, but the benefits to my mood, my skill-set, and my social capital bank from that single push to de-isolate were beyond immense.
* * *
Now, I’d pretty much filed Twitter in that “not worth my time” corner of my mind and life, having decided that keeping up with three online communication ports — Facebook, personal email, work email — was quite enough… especially because I’m trying to fight the modern trend toward choosing screens over face-to-face interactions.
But I figured, what the heck. At least I’ll see my friend Todd, my neighbor/friend Elle and probably meet some cool people. And maybe – just maybe – I’ll realize I’m wrong about Twitter, and it actually has a place in my life.
Yes, Twitter has now flapped its cute little bird way into my mind as a valid and useful tool for what I want to do in my life. The first clue that this may be true was when class facilitator Elle, an amazingly articulate, brave social justice activist, online personality, writer, musician and local organizer of awesomeness, said that she used to feel exactly like she had no time to keep up with Twitter on top of Facebook and the rest of life.
All that to say, I’m now on board with using Twitter. And here’s some of the handy stuff I learned at this class:
1) Twitter is Not Like Facebook
Yes, they both use a stream of constantly updated posts from people you’ve decided to link yourself to. And no, the main difference between Twitter and the Book of Face is not that Twitter limits your posts to just 140 characters.
The coolest difference is: Twitter GUARANTEES that your tweet (the thing you post on twitter) will get seen by everyone who’s following you. Your tweets go out in real-time, and will definitely appear in your followers’ feeds. Facebook, on the other hand, is a total crapshoot. You have no way of knowing whether half or more of any friends will see your posts.
2) Hashtags are awesome!
Because I LOVE organization and connection, I’ve always gotten off on the idea of hashtags. But, they were still kind of mysterious to me.
What are hashtags? They’re labels people put on posts to connect them to one common theme. So, if I tweet, “I’m feeling so lazy! Someone come feed me #lazybum” and someone else tweets, “Breaking news on combatting laziness with diet #lazybum,” both of those tweets would appear in a ream of any comments out on Twitter that have been hash-tagged #lazybum. Not the most compelling theme maybe, but you get the idea.
Hashtags let you connect what you’re saying to all of the other tweets going out about a single topic.
One of the potential results…
3) Relationships and coalitions happen through Twitter
Apparently, Twitter has been a tool for lots of people taking action or sharing valuable information about things they care about to find, build relationships, and collaborate with one another across the country and world.
4) Twitter can be a cool real-time organizing tool
We didn’t get too deep into this, but it is true that groups of otherwise disconnected people have been able to organize elegant collective efforts by using Twitter. Facilitator and core member of Indy Arts & Media Coop Xander Gieryn told of a group which was occupying a school (I think?), and communicated with each other about real-time plans, happenings and changes using Twitter. From what I understand, hashtags were one of the tools they used–for instance, if one hallway was being blocked, they’d tweet about it and let everyone know to go to the other hallway.
Also, many of us have already heard how instrumental Twitter was in the Arab Spring uprising in Egypt.
5) The mechanics are not that hard
Twitter isn’t that complicated. It’s a pretty elegant, smart system. Here’s some basics, as I understand them now:
- Twitter lets you not just to shoot spurts of what you think’s important out to your whole world of followers, but also lets you communicate directly to individual twitter users. (There may be some other abilities I didn’t quite learn here, but this was definitely useful to me!)
- When you want to tweet out to the whole world, just write something and post “Tweet.”
- If you want to acknowledge a specific user or users–say, a friend you know would be into what you’re posting–include their twitter name along with an “@” at the beginning. Like: “I feel so lazy! Come bring me food @kalyn_mae” Your friend will see this.
- You can reply to tweets without subjecting all of your followers to that line of communication. (I used to think that everything you say goes out to everyone. Super confusing and silly, right? Not true!) To do this, you click the “Reply to Tweet.” Your response will begin, “@_(name)___” and only they will see it.
- BUT! You can decide to “break” that link and make your tweet-chat public. You do this by adding a period (“.”) at the beginning of your tweet. For example: “.@__(name)__ I won’t bring you food, you #lazybum, get it yourself!” or, more kindly, “.@__(name)__ is too lazy to get food. Someone help her. My car is dead so I can’t.”
There are a number of other mechanical tips folks shared which are probably easier for me to just post the handy hand-outs below than to try and type them all out manually and risk botching the info completely!
6) You don’t have to follow your followers
Just because you have friends on twitter, don’t feel obligated to follow them. They may post stuff you’re just not interested in or don’t really want to look at all the time. Twitter isn’t as touchy as Facebook in that way.
7) The best way to get a following: Be Yourself.
This was my favorite point of the night — shared at the very end by magnificent Elle, based on her own experience. I love it because it both relaxed me and spoke to my wish for what I put out there to be authentic, and for my “Strategies” in forwarding whatever I do to be based on authenticity… and not just about my own popularity but about advancing the things I deeply believe in and want to strengthen in the world (strong neighborhoods, inclusiveness, equality, connection).
This was her general summary about using Twitter and, I think, stands on its own as a great conclusion to this blog as well. I found it encouraging, liberating and exciting:
“The more you get used to crafting tweets — smushing meaningful things into a small space — you’re building your unique voice and building coalitions. That’s how conversations happen. I’ve gone on vacation to Detroit because I met people on twitter.
Really, just be earnest in communicating. Be as comfortable as possible. Don’t try to be anyone other than yourself. That’s how you build a followership.
It all comes back to voice and staying consistent. Tweet consistently, engage with people consistently.”
Since the class, I’ve made a point to browse Twitter a couple times a day. I have found its conciseness refreshing, and have used it to put out my new material as well as to re-tweet (share) colleagues and aligned users’ tweets that I find compelling.
I still want to prioritize face-to-face and, like I did Tuesday night by peeling myself out of my isolated room, peel myself more and more away from my computer and phone screens. I think our world needs that. But if I can use this tool to augment the will out there in the world to do that also,… hey, why not?
If you want more Twitter tips, check out the material below. And, please share from your own experiences…
How have you balanced technology with having a healthy amount of real human interaction in your life? Or used technology to get face-to-face with people?
What’s your relationship with Twitter — Love, Hate, Nonexistent? Why?
provided by Indy Art Media Coop