Activists are fond of saying “The Resistance is on Twitter”, and it’s true. While many in our district use Facebook, which has tremendous value to activists, Twitter is a uniquely powerful tool for observing and understanding the political moment.
But Facebook and Twitter are both social media platforms, so what’s the difference?
Facebook is primarily inward looking. It’s composed of people you know, or at least kind of know, and specific pages that you “like” or groups that you join. You see what they are posting and sharing, so your universe of input is limited to the activities of those people and pages. The pace of change of your Facebook timeline is modest, and the content stream is determined by a secret algorithm that includes some stories and excludes others. Over the course of a day, a few dozen new items appear on your timeline, some being long-form articles that friends share, or pictures, etc. It’s a great way to keep up with people you don’t see or talk to often, and to form private groups and share information with those groups, but it’s not the best way to cast a wide net for timely information or news. It also tends to be a fairly small and closed bubble of feedback.
Twitter is outward looking. It’s composed mostly of people you don’t know, as well as news & media outlets. There is no limit to the number of people and organizations you can follow. Where a typical Facebook user has several hundred friends, a Twitter user might follow a thousand or more Twitter accounts. And they are people you don’t often know personally, many of whom are locally or nationally known figures. Their Tweets appear in your Twitter feed, which is a stream of real-time postings, and there is no algorithm determining what you see or don’t see. It all flows through your feed. Over time, as you follow people, some will emerge as favorite voices on certain topics or issues. And when news is breaking, it always appears on Twitter before it hits cable news or Facebook. When a natural disaster occurs, or a terror attack, or a courthouse verdict, people turn to Twitter to hear first-hand stories of people who are there Tweeting their experiences live.
I used to work on a trading floor, and one of the things I loved was being surrounded by wire services and news feeds. When anything happened around the world, I was one of the first to know. Now, years later, Twitter has become the personal, portable version of a news feed. And it’s also an opinion feed. Sure, there are many hateful and toxic people on Twitter, just like there are on any public platform these days. But many of the most vocal and inspiring members of the Resistance are on Twitter, and it’s both instructive and heartening to follow them. In the movie Shadowlands, the C.S. Lewis character says, “We read to know we’re not alone.” And in the era of Trump, we Tweet to know we’re not alone. Millions of activists interact on Twitter, and their voices can be especially uplifting to those of us who are not surrounded by like minded people or who are just depressed by the epic clusterf*ck that is the Trump Administration.
At its best, Twitter allows a user to plug into the liberal zeitgeist on any given day. Twitter is like a hive mind, and as Tweets stream past, you get a sense of what smart, informed people are concerned about and how they are interpreting particular news stories as they develop. As you get more comfortable and adept, you can start tweeting your own thoughts and opinions. It’s a great place for organizations and candidates and groups to broadcast events or concerns, and it’s not unheard of that Twitter users interact with the famous people they follow. I once Tweeted how much I had enjoyed a live music performance…and the world-renowned performer Tweeted me back to thank me for my support.
It takes some effort, and of course it’s always possible to get addicted to any social media platform, but the effort is worth it because the Resistance is thriving on Twitter.
Pro Tips: as you begin to follow Twitter accounts, you should create a set of lists and immediately assign each person/org you follow to a list. For example, “opinion”, “news”, “local politics”, “sports” or whatever else interests you. Over time, rather than watch your main Twitter feed, which is a feed of everyone you follow and can get quite crowded, look at one or more of your lists instead. Also, if you really want to get the full experience, use Tweetdeck, a user tool owned by Twitter, which lets you watch many lists or hashtags or users at once in side-by-side columns. For a start, here are some great resistance voices to follow:
@maddow @joyannreid @tedlieu @beauwillimon @rvawonk @evan_mcmullin @kurteichenwald @indivisibleteam @ericgarland @nyindivisible @indivisibletfio @indivisible19ny @jonfavs @kimmasters @teapainusa @politics_pr @funder @edkrassen @maxboot @amy_siskind @peterdaou @marmel @ericboehlert @politicussarah @sarahkendzior @laurenduca @crampell @brianklass