Since its inception in 2006, Twitter has exploded from a simple microblog to a hotbed of political struggle. Users all over the world – politicians, celebrities, ordinary citizens – have taken advantage of the site’s to put forth their political views in concise bursts of 140 characters or less.
This past week incited a Twitter firestorm on two accounts:
- In response to complaints about the lack of racial diversity in HBO’s new sitcom Girls, writer Lesley Arfin tweeted: “What really bothered me most about Precious was that there was no representation of ME.”
This afternoon, Fox News analyst Monica Crowley reacted to the announcement of Sandra Fluke’s engagement with the following tweet: “To a man?” When attacked as a bigot, a homophobe, and a terrible person, she claimed it was a joke, tweeting “I love exposing the Left’s total lack of a sense of humor.”
Couple these inciting incidents with the growing use of Twitter to chronicle political movements in real time (Occupy Wall Street, the protest of Facebook’s all-male board of directors), and it’s clear that Twitter is a huge part of the growing movement to make social media political too.
Now, we at PeaceKeeper love our Twitter account (@PeaceKeeperCaus) and so should you, but if you’re a novice Tweeter looking to get your voice heard, here are a few advantages and disadvantages of using your Twitter as your political platform:
1. Connected. With hashtags, you can add your name to the conversation about any current political issue. This not only ensures that your voice will be heard and responded to; it also allows you to listen and respond to like-minded people!
Additionally, the ability to tweet (or re-tweet) at important figures in the conversation (a celebrity, the President) you have the chance to express your thoughts directly to the people who can make the biggest impact.
2. Concise. Tweeting is a quick and easy way to get your thoughts across, but with its 140-character limit, it forces you to get rid of the B.S. and say what you really mean.
3. Easy to Use. A tweet is basically a combination of a petition signature and a Facebook status! Like a petition signature, it lets you show your support to a larger audience than just your friends or family, and it receives attention from the most important people in the political movement. Like a Facebook status, it gives you the chance to express your own opinions alongside the opinions of like-minded people, thus allowing for a new voice to be heard in the conversation.
With all this in mind, here are a few things to think about when engaging in political Tweeting:
1. Remember that everything you post is going to be there forever. Lesley Arfin deleted her tweet and posted an apology, but not before it was screencapped and published on all the major news websites. Think very carefully about what you tweet, especially if it could be radical or offensive.
2. Stay on topic. It’s very hard to say everything you want in 140 characters or less (especially if you include a link), but try to state your opinion clearly and succinctly without straying from the main point. When everyone is using the same hashtag to talk about wildly different things, the conversation gets lost and it’s harder to effect change.
Do you use Twitter? Do you think it’s effective? How would you use it to get involved in political change? Leave a comment below!
The PeaceKeeper Team