Can we tweet ourselves into a revolution for social change?
At one of the opening panel sessions for Netroots Nation — an annual conference of progressive online geeks — prominent hip-hop generation community activists Davey D, Kimberly “Dr. Goddess” Ellis and Elon James White said yes. The group led a panel called “Tweeting the Revolution: How Hip-Hop Transformed 140 into 360,” which gave attendees great pointers on how to use Twitter to advance social justice.
As a social network, Twitter has existed since 2006. But it first rose to the limelight with the election of Barack Obama, who heavily engaged voters through the online medium.
In the years since, you could argue (as the Netroot Nations panelists did) that platforms like Twitter are helping bridge a race-based digital divide. Accordingly, here are five pointers on how you and other activists can maximize your use of Twitter to engage and help positively shape conversations about race online:
1. Use established Twitter lists to follow scholars, historians and writers who engage in conversations about race.
2. Use Twitter to connect different conversations. As an open public space, one of Twitter’s best qualities is the way it helps to connect people working on the same issues, as well as to link up conversations that may seem unrelated to one another — for example, race with immigration, or race with criminal justice issues.
3. Use Twitter to question the dominant narrative. Twitter helps you leapfrog traditional mainstream media, allowing you to receive live updates from individuals everywhere, and live reporting. Mainstream media sources find it tougher to conceal facts these days, thanks to Twitter. It’s easier to hold them accountable online.
4. Remember: hashtags (#whichlooklikethis) present a catch-22 situation. They can be used to collate and segment different conversation, which helps to build community. But there’s also a danger in using them to immerse ourselves in conversations that are often segregated.
5. Allow Twitter to connect you to other activists and points of view. Twitter is a social media tool that isn’t insular. You can use it to easily increase both the quality and quantity of your online communication, just by following and sharing a diversity set of activists and news sources.
A new report from Pew’s Internet and American Life Project shows that when it comes to mobile phone use, blacks and Hispanics are actually using the technology more than whites to access the Internet. But just because racial and ethnic minorities are getting online does not mean they’re using the technology to effect social change. Hopefully, though, if you haven’t begun thinking of Twitter as a social justice tool yet, this list will help you — and any of your friends — to start.
Photo Credit: Rosaura Ochoa