I love Twitter. I unashamedly and wholeheartedly love this silly bird website. It is actually using the Internet for its intended purpose: for sharing information, interacting with others, learning, growing. You can create your own stimulating and meaningful community while exchanging jokes about butts with strangers overseas. Magic!
I used to hide my joy for Twitter as though it was a dirty secret; none of my IRL friends understood how it worked so I was completely anonymous. Tweeting mundane thoughts out into the abyss! The first person I followed was Stephen Fry, that fateful day I created my account in 2009, and I was so excited by the sheer amount of personal anecdotes and interesting links he shared. No longer would I have to rummage through my favourite celebrity’s garbage to learn more about them; no longer would I have to buy physical newspapers to learn more about current affairs and world events! OK that’s a lie, I kept buying the weekend Age (SMH) because I like hand-filling in the crosswords.
Remember back in the days of dial-up internet, when John Howard was declaring he would never introduce GST, and Toadie from Neighbours had an enviable ponytail?
In the late 90s, making friends on the Internet was seen as not only embarrassing but dangerous. Now, people can feel genuine connection with people over similar interests (whether personal, political or just the same love of memes) quickly and readily. For those of us who ofttimes feel alien in our community, it can be a saving grace to log on and be reminded that the world is so much bigger and richer than your suburb or workplace.
Approximately one million high school essays and comedy debates have focused on the topic of ‘does social media make us less social?’ Personally, Twitter has improved my confidence and friendship networks immeasurably. I’ve made some really valued and wonderful friendships with people I first interacted with through Twitter. Instead of feeling resigned to only having polite lunches with high school friends you haven’t had anything in common with since 2003, or drinks after work with colleagues who do Borat impressions, Twitter can help you seek out a real community. MY WIFE!!!
Mental illness can make you feel incredibly isolated. And in some ways, you are – the unique form a mental health disorder takes can drastically impact your life in a way that is profoundly different to someone experiencing the same disorder. But you do not have to be alone. On days when my anxiety was at its worst, it was comforting to know I could still interact with people, still feel acknowledged and valued. Yes, I crave attention and validation, don’t we all? Since being more open about my mental illness and past struggles with trauma and an eating disorder, I have received messages from people in similar situations reaching out to me. We really are pack animals, it’s just sometimes our packs take different forms.
Twitter can be essentially used however you like it. Some people exist as a little egg avatar and never actually tweet, only there to obtain links and facts and information (this is how I began). You can choose to follow organisations, musicians, politicians, activists, philosophers, your favourite sock brand – literally everything has a Twitter presence.
It also can be used as essentially a blog, especially since replying to your own tweet now creates a thread (and Storify can give them a life beyond the timeline). Voices that are traditionally silenced can tweet without being interrupted. Women can comment on an issue without hearing “Well, actually” of a male counterpart. Sure, the tweets may get a #notallmen response. But for the readers silently following the thread, it can be a powerful learning experience they may never have gotten in the real world.
For individuals who struggle to take up space in the real world, Twitter is a remarkably empowering space. Make no mistake, the Internet is full of horrible racist, transphobic and generally awful people – Twitter is not immune to this, but it can act as a platform for previously silenced voices to be heard. And for those in a position of privilege, we can help amplify those voices.
Joking about hashtags is so #LastYear but following a hashtag really can be an enlightening or somewhat depressing experience. #BlackLivesMatter is a movement that while starting in the US, has spread internationally and gained much-needed attention – particularly around police racially profiling and killing young black men. Footage of an unarmed man being shot by police is horrific, but it’s Twitter that sees it first. I don’t want to sound too ‘jet fuel can’t melt steel beams’ but mainstream media aren’t going to highlight systemic racism.
#YesAllWomen demonstrated the depressing shared experiences that brought women together: being groped publicly, unappreciated at work, being sexually assaulted. However, there is a level of privilege I need to acknowledge (not just for folks who can even access Twitter which is a privilege in itself – to have the Internet and decent literacy skills and a safe place to tweet). In relation to #YesAllWomen or #EverydaySexism, yes I get cat-called frequently but my experience of sexism as a white, educated cis woman is profoundly different than the experience of women of colour, or sex workers, or trans women. Intersectionality or GTFO.
Skillz Pay The Billz
When I fell in love with Twitter over the winter of ’09, I never thought it would actually benefit my life in any way other than acting as a knowledge base. Through Twitter, I discovered that I really like making silly jokes. Through Twitter, I discovered I really enjoy writing articles like this, which are basically like a tweet with a larger word count (wild!) Through Twitter, I’ve been offered writing opportunities and been asked to be a guest on podcasts of comedians I’ve admired for years. None of this would have happened if I didn’t start tweeting out into the abyss.
I will happily gush to anyone I meet about how much I love this platform. I’ve attended countless Twitter meet-ups and met some of my closest friends on the bird site. I also try to convert other people – a few years ago my sister and I bought my mum an iPad and she is now a Twitter fanatic (and occasional replier of ‘HAHAHA’ to my tweets. Thanks mum I love you). As with any social media there can be ugly sides to anything, but Twitter can be a fantastic medium to connect and learn from others, and to maybe learn something about yourself.
Is that final sentence too cheesy? #butts
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