In an increasingly connected world, social media hasn’t come without its faults. Whether it’s job security, online privacy, harassment or more, digitality has introduced a number of complexities for us to navigate. This is especially true with Twitter, a social networking platform built on users interacting in 140 characters.
It doesn’t take long to uncover examples of this. Take the harassment towards SNL star, Leslie Jones, for example. Or Politico firing reporter Julia Ioffe after a trump-related tweet. Most recently, we can look at the rise of hate speech on Twitter as a result of the 2016 election. We know Twitter has a glaring trolling problem. As a result, there has been talk surrounding the decline of the platform, both in revenue and users. I’ve experienced frustration, and many others experience it much, much worse on a daily basis. I can’t sit here and place blame for wanting to disconnect and leave.
However, given our current political climate and the need for free speech and unification, I’m reconsidering the importance of Twitter’s role in our society. I hope others will, too.
In Defense of Twitter
Twitter is the only social platform that has the power to unite us in real-time. Through easily digestible humor, citizen reporting, and immediate access to any user (whether they respond is a different story), Twitter provides an online community that transcends proximity, ideology or any immediate network (unlike Facebook which is known to create a more dramatic echo chamber). What’s more, with a majority of millennials getting news from social media, platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are acting more and more as a bridge to reality — a method to inspire knowledge and thus tangible action. This is one of the reasons why the recent women’s march gained so much traction.
Social and Reality are Intertwined
It’s easy to dismiss Twitter as an alternate universe with no influence on the real world. That’s just not true. If used correctly, it can create more informed citizens. It can spawn action and organization. It can create community. It can be an epicenter for unity. Of course there are bad seeds, but I believe the opportunity to come together outweighs the negativity, especially now. This is especially true for those who want to be politically active, but don’t necessarily know where to begin.
Twitter isn’t just a great place to take part in the latest (hilarious) trends. You can receive breaking news before anyone else. You can break news yourself. You can get inspired by activists who you would have never had the chance to encounter otherwise. You can show your support for others when they need it most. Most of all, you can hold those in power accountable — and you can get through to them like never before. Twitter is a two-way communication vehicle unlike any other social platform out there. In a time when facts are questioned and division is encouraged from the top down, the need to seek out information is crucial.
Being Online in the Trump Era
I’m not going to write down all of my thoughts regarding our current administration. Not right now. At this point it’s a waste of energy. President Trump made it this far and he and his team will continue to lie and bully until it no longer suits them.
Whether it’s attempting to intimidate the press, suppressing science, denying women access to abortion, implementing immigration reform or more, it’s clear that he will not shy away from his controversial policies or rhetoric any time soon. So it’s more important to put our energy into proactive action.
This isn’t about Democrats or Republicans. It’s about ensuring accountability and protecting freedoms, regardless of who our president is. As we move forward, we need to create community, call out blatant lies, amplify the truth, find time to laugh, seek inspiration, make new friends, challenge the status quo, and let others know that we’re not going anywhere. There’s no easier way to start this than through the small device we carry everywhere. Just remember, it is exactly that: a start.
If you feel safe and comfortable enough doing so (understandably some don’t), I implore you to stay on the medium.
8 Ways to Leverage Twitter for Good
1) Follow those you respect and trust on both sides of the aisles.
2) Engage in dialogue, but try to follow up outside of 140 characters via email or phone.
3) Reach beyond the screen to meet in person.
4) Use as a method to organize: marches, protests, forums, events, discussions, etc.
5) Hold politicians and people in power accountable. Even if they don’t respond, a staff member may see it and take note. If your message gets enough traction they may have to respond. What’s more, the up-to-date nature of social media keeps you in the loop regarding political actions that you can take (i.e how to reach your senators, what actions need to be taken, etc).
6) Relieve stress through humor. Believe it or not, Twitter can be an important source for comedy. With writers and comedians constantly testing out material, sometimes it can give us exactly the laugh we need, even when we’re feeling hopeless.
7) Amplify other voices. We can get out of our bubbles and build up the voices that may not always get heard.
8) Remember: social media can be a great catalyst, but it alone will not yield results. What matters most is where it leads to.