A Little Love Note to Twitter

I know, I know, Twitter can be a poisonous realm filled with evil trolls.

But it brings me good things in a celebration of serendipity and the spread of good ideas that I don't find elsewhere.

Some examples that inspired this post:

I follow Andrea Learned (@andrealearned) and have for years. I found her when I lived in Spokane, worked in communications, and was building my women's bike blogs list, among other things. We had biking and communications in common. I followed her.

Then I moved to a job in Seattle (for which, by the way, Twitter provided some of my brand-building and influencer identity). I met Andrea in person, we became friends who occasionally get together for bike rides and coffee, and I realized just how much of a leader she was in bridging the worlds of sustainability, bicycling, social impact, green business, and online influence.

So I follow her, retweet her, and look at who she recommends and amplifies. This recently gave me a "you are there" series of tweets as Andrea participated in a climate-action bike ride at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco.

Andrea shared a story recently that taught me how few influencers/changed opinions it takes to turn the tide on something you care about by sharing a link to this Fast Company piece: The magic number of people needed to create social change. The magic number? 25 percent--just one in four.

The whole notion of hashtags as a way to link people with common interests illustrates how Twitter can bring strangers together around a shared idea. A few examples from my interests, and there are many:
  • When I look at the spread of concepts like #CrashNotAccident, with people calling out media coverage that doesn't follow the AP stylebook and makes it sound as if a driver hitting someone was somehow inevitable or unavoidable, I know it's worth engaging to keep up the drumbeat.
  • More recently #DriverNotCar has emerged--an especially important distinction as we begin to have self-driving cars tested on public roads. The next time you read an article about someone injured or killed while walking or bicycling, look at whether the reporter actually says the driver did it or whether all the actions are attributed to the vehicle.
  • Andrea started the use of #bikes4climate to highlight the value of bicycling as carbon-free transportation. 
  • Every Thursday night from 6-7pm Pacific time #bikeschool takes place: A "guest prof" asks bikey questions, people chime in with answers. I regularly serve as guest prof and it builds such community that when a #bikeschool regular came to Seattle on a visit, several of us got together for beer and met in real life for the first time.

Another phenomenon I can attribute directly to Twitter activity: The number of people I meet at conferences with whom I can forge a strong and immediate connection. When I introduce myself if the response in a tone of recognition is, "You're Barb Chamberlain?!" I know to answer with, "You must be on Twitter." The answer is always yes.

Why? Because I live-tweet conferences, briefings, any setting in which I'm able to use Twitter to disseminate information relevant to my work and my passions. I type like the wind and I'm good at picking out sound bites--or what we used to refer to as sound bites before they became tweetable comments. A few examples from September 2018, which was a somewhat over-conferenced month for me but one full of great learning and connecting:
#WalkBikePlaces (which was attended by more good live-tweeters than many I go to)

If you've been avoiding Twitter because you know it's abused by bots and ranters, you don't have to let them scare you away. It can be a space in which to connect, share and learn. And there's always the function that lets you mute certain keywords for a much more...civilized experience.

Wondering where to start? I've compiled some lists around various interests, particularly active transportation and equity. Andrea has a big batch of lists focused around sustainability, climate change and corporate social responsibility. You can follow a list or just look at it to pick out a few people you find interesting. You can always unfollow later if you change your mind. It's not like Facebook, where people (should) only let you connect if they know you in real life and then get their feelings hurt if you unfriend because you're not all that interested in pictures of their grandchildren.

At its best, Twitter lets you learn from and connect with total strangers. If this post encourages you to give it a try--or to come back to an account you started years ago but haven't been active on--give me a shout at @barbchamberlain to let me know. Then we won't be strangers.

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