"Shorter #OscarNoms: White men FTW," I tweeted the morning the Oscar nominations were announced. I watched my phone buzz as women (and men) retweeted and responded to my tweet with solidarity -- and of course, the requisite bit of hate from trolls. Overall, it felt like a very small victory to join a conversation about the lack of diversity in the entertainment industry and to have my voice heard and affirmed by others.
According to a new study published in the British Journal Of Social Psychology, tweets like mine -- that is, ones that address issues of inequality on a very public Internet stage -- may actually be good for the well-being of the women doing the tweeting.
Dr. Mindi Foster of Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada led the research, which looked at the ways female undergraduate students felt after tweeting about issues of sexism. According to ScienceDaily, Dr. Foster split the 93 students surveyed into three groups: one that tweeted publicly for three days, one that tweeted privately and one that did not tweet at all. All participants were given information each day about current sexism in politics and the media, and took surveys meant to assess their mood and overall well-being.
The study's results suggested that tweeting publicly about these sort of issues could improve the way women feel, specifically making them see themselves as a part of a collective action. As Mic's Liz Plank summed it up on "Krystal Clear,": "Tweeting doesn't just give you an outlet to express yourself, it also makes women feel less helpless in the face of inequality."
Social media platforms like Twitter have become a hotbed of feminist activity over the last five years. Given the democratic nature of Twitter -- anyone can join and gain followers -- it has given voices to those who mainstream media might have traditionally ignored. That's why feminist, racial and LGBTQ activism has found its way to the platform.
In turn, the conversations that happen on Twitter, whether they are about why victims of abuse stay with their abusers (#WhyIStayed), the perfect sexual assault victim myth (#TheresNoPerfectVictim), police brutality against people of color (#BlackLivesMatter), or the casual sexism women experience every day (#QuestionsForMen) become mainstream news on publications like BuzzFeed, The Guardian, New York Times and, yes, The Huffington Post.
But even as a platform that seems tailor-made for these sort of dialogues, Twitter has its issues. Women are consistently subjected to harassment and abuse, especially when expressing their thoughts about issues of gender equality. "I’m a writer and a woman and a feminist, and I write about big, fat, bitchy things that make people uncomfortable. And because I choose to do that as a career, I’m told, a constant barrage of abuse is just part of my job," wrote Lindy West for The Guardian. (See Mic's video of feminists reading mean tweets to get a small taste of the sort of messages vocal women receive on a daily basis.)
But even an exhausting and constant deluge of horrible comments has done little to silence the women (and men) who give a sh*t about calling out injustice. And it seems that Twitter's higher ups are finally starting to listen. On Feb. 4, Twitter CEO Dick Costelo sent an internal memo to his employees taking personal responsibility for the platform's failure to protect its users from trolling. "We suck at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform and we've sucked at it for years," he wrote, promising to take steps to truly tackle the issue. If and when platforms like Twitter become safer spaces, their power to promote positive change will become even greater.
If tweeting about the inequality that exists in the world makes us feel a part of something greater than ourselves, and creates a space where our voices can be heard and amplified, then that in and of itself is extremely powerful. The feminists of the 1960s and '70s had consciousness-raising groups, and young feminists of the '90s had zines and the Riot Grrrl movement. We have Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr.
Obviously activism can't live and die online, but it can be born and nurtured there. #Preach #Listen #Act