- by Alyson Shane
For myself, and many people that I know, the world feels like an unfamiliar place right now.
The recent election of Donald Trump in the United States, and the apparent rise of white nationalism, anti-feminism, Islamophobia, homophobia, antisemitism, etc. (also known as the "alt right") has many people feeling scared and confused, and a lot of articles, from WIRED to Mashable, have emerged recently about the "echo chamber" that social media, particularly Facebook, has created which has led us to where we are today.
With that in mind, I wanted to discuss some of the ways in which I believe Twitter is actually getting things right in terms of providing a non-insular opportunity for people to express themselves, easily find dissenting viewpoints, and engage with them in conversation.
Before we begin
I know that there are a lot of dissenting views out there about Twitter, and it's usefulness as a social platform. Before I go too much further, let me get these things out of the way:
- Yes, I know that their CEO is wildly unpopular
- Yes, I know they have had issues addressing harassment and hate speech in the past
- Yes, I know that their value has tanked
- Yes, I know they have issues acquiring new users
This post isn't about any of those things.
What I'd like to do is discuss some of the things that make Twitter an important and necessary platform for our society right now, and how it (or something with the features I'm going to highlight) must continue to offer in order to allow for citizen journalism, the sharing of thoughts and ideas, and discussion online.
Hashtags (that people really use)
This morning I got up and read (on Twitter) that the cast of the Broadway musical Hamilton delivered a speech to United States vice-president elect Mike Pence at the end of their show last night. Within a few hours, right-leaning Twitter users took to the social network to start pushing a hashtag called #BoycottHamilton, urging (rather obviously) Trump supporters to boycott the play.
The fact that a hashtag emerged isn't what's important, but what you see when you click on the hashtag is:
Even in this single snapshot we see a series of diverse opinions. Some don't take it seriously, some are worked up, etc. Not only does a timeline around a hashtag display diverse opinions, but Twitter also offers you this added level of engagement with a hashtag's tweets:
These settings are on by default. This means that in order to find yourself inside a Twitter echo chamber, you literally have to take the necessary steps to insulate yourself against opposing viewpoints.
Compare this to Facebook, which deliberately shows you news items and articles that appeal to you and goes out of their way to make changing those settings a challenge. Yes, hashtags are available to use on Facebook, but according to a 2016 BuzzSumo report, posts without hashtags received more interaction than posts with hashtags. This means that not only are hashtags not popular in Facebook, but that including a hashtag in your post actually lowers the likelihood that someone will engage with it.
So not only is Facebook pushing appealing news at you, but the primary tool at your disposal to find dissenting voices (a hashtag) are rarely used. This means that in order to find different opinions you either need to already be Facebook Friends with someone who disagrees with you, or you have to already subscribe to a Facebook Page or Group where you're likely to hear dissenting views.
But even in that scenario, you still have to actively seek it out, Like, and in some cases apply to join, a Group or Page which espouses views that you disagree with. Then, once you start expressing your opposing viewpoints you encounter the next hurdle: the wall of text. Which brings me to my next point:
Character and post length
Algorithms aside, one of the biggest differences when it comes to hearing opposing viewpoints online, and actually paying attention to them, is that Twitter forces you to be brief, at least in the context of a single tweet.
On Facebook there's no character limit, which means people can (and do) go on ad nauseam to explain their point of view. There's nothing inherently wrong with this, but it highlights the difference that Twitter acts like a conversation, while Facebook acts like a soapbox.
Being on the receiving end of a "Twitter storm" sucks; I can tell you from experience. But it's much easier to process and digest someone else's point of view in 140 characters than digesting (and responding to) several massive paragraphs (or, if you're unlucky, a single monolithic wall of text.)
Tweets, for all their faults, force people to break up their thought process, which provides opportunities for others to interject, respond, and get involved without having to unpack multiple paragraphs of text. I've engaged in debates with people on Twitter over a specific hashtag and more often than not both sides receive support from people who happened to see the conversation, and wanted to participate.
On the flip side, Facebook allows comments to be up to 63,206 characters in length, according to a 2016 HubSpot article. To put that into context: the average book is approximately 500,000 characters, meaning you can fit an entire novel in 9 Facebook status updates.
Just because tweets are shorter doesn't mean that they won't get ignored, or fluffed off, but when a Facebook user replies with a wall of text, a common sign of trolling, it's much easier to dismiss or simply ignore it.
One of the points that I made earlier was about hashtags, and how searching for a hashtag meant that you could easily find differing opinions. It's also important to note that including a hashtag in your tweets also means that other people can easily find you.
Tweeting about a topic like #BlackLivesMatter, #Election2016 or #MAGA (to name just a few) will not only bring like-minded users out of the woodwork, but it's almost guaranteed that someone from the other side of the political spectrum will tweet back at you.
Tweets which include hashtags are 33% more likely to get retweeted than those that don't use them, and this (somewhat older) article from Sysomos which examined over 1.2 billion tweets in two months, which states that "29% of all tweets produced a reaction - a reply or a retweet. Of this group of tweets, 19.3% were retweets and the rest replies."
This 2016 report found that Twitter accounts for 30% of all global social sharing. At 500 million tweets sent each day (or 6,000 tweets every second), that's a lot of replies and retweets, even if Sysomos' 2010 numbers haven't grown since the article was published.
Not only does voicing your opinion on Twitter increase your chances of interacting with someone who disagrees with you, but when a discussion is retweeted, its visibility becomes amplified too. As more users participate, it increases the likelihood that you will run into someone who disagrees with you even more.
Default "public" profiles
Transparency is, in my opinion, the defining feature which makes Twitter such a powerful tool for discussion: when you tweet at someone your reply is completely public.
Unless you go out of your way to change your Twitter profile to "private," your entire tweet history including replies, retweets, quotes, and media will be available for any one whether they are logged in to Twitter or not. And if a tweet is retweeted, even deleting it later won't delete the retweet copy.
Facebook, conversely, was designed to be a more exclusive experience. From day one Facebook's defining feature has been a user's ability to selectively choose who can see what they share, and, for the most part anyway, the conversations you are able to have are limited to the amount of Facebook Friends you've approved, or the number of Groups or Pages you Like or participate in.
While the average Facebook user's Timeline isn't completely private (posts which tag other users, for example, will show up unless otherwise specified) and their comments may be seen if another user's privacy settings are more lax, overall what you say on Facebook isn't immediately available to the public in the same way that Twitter's Timelines are.
Yes, people are can be "outed" if they say something that another user disagrees with, but unless the person is a celebrity, political figure, or person of interest, the average user isn't going to re-share a hateful comment their coworker made and say "I never realized that so-and-so in Accounting was such an antisemite!"
We just don't call each other out in that way on Facebook at a personal level, and on Twitter, we don't really need to, because whatever a user posts is readily available to the world at large.
Easy access to a variety of opinions
Until recently, when we examined a specific historical event or time we had a limited number of sources to draw from. Nowadays, social media allows us to look into the life of the average person and experience, sometimes in real time, what they are experiencing.
Probably the most memorable of these incidents was the Twitter coverage of the protests over the 2009 Iranian election. Foreign media had been banned from reporting, and the stream of live coverage from everyday citizens on the ground led to a request from the U.S. State Department to put off scheduled maintenance which would have caused an outage in Iran during the protests.
Twitter provided the world with access to real-time information about a national crisis, and ever since has become the go-to source for breaking news including weather, political uprisings, and more. But it does more than just give us "on the ground" access to important events; it allows for public scrutiny of the facts, so that while false information will still get around, corrections have the chance of spreading in realtime too.
By using hashtags to discuss a common theme or event, Twitter users are able to contribute to a global and multi-faceted real-time narrative about what's happening in the world that they live in. Clicking on the hashtag they're using will show them a diverse array of opinions on the topic.
Here's another screenshot of some of the 'Live' #BoycottHamilton tweets:
To be clear: I don't think that Twitter is the perfect platform. It has its share of flaws and issues, and eventually something will come along to replace it (hence the title of this post).
However, I do think that it's important to discuss the elements of the social network which I think make it good, and relevant. Twitter is an important tool for discussion and news, and provides more opportunities for users to engage with people outside of their "echo chamber."
Now, more than ever it seems, we need to be able to hear what other people have to say.
- by admin
Me, calling Gord Steeves a tool.
Will, talking about his super interesting video project which I won't talk about in detail here.
John, being clever and cute as usual.
Our waitress apologizing for serving me a 'Lil Scrapper instead of a Bulldog (it's all good, girl!)
The dude from Shaw TV asking everyone if they had questions for the candidates. Over and over.
The girls at the next table commenting on how unimpressed Bartley Kives looked throughout the entire debate.
Dudes a few tables over talking about hockey.
People reading their Twitter streams aloud.
And basically everything except the actual debate, which was why we were there in the first place.
- by admin
It’s an exciting time to be a young person in Winnipeg.
Our city is humming with activity: the Jets are back, the landscape of our downtown is changing dramatically, we're hosting large-scale events that are garnering national attention, and we're establishing ourselves as one of the top centers for entrepreneurs and start ups. More importantly, however, is that there is an upcoming municipal election where we finally have a candidate who is as passionate about the future of our city as we are.
Many of us, myself included, are choosing to support Brian Bowman because, as lifelong Winnipeggers, we are tired of the “business as usual” career politicians who seem to lack vision and have a passion for our great city.
I had a pretty typical Winnipeg upbringing: I lived in a suburb –Riverbend, to be exact- with my parents, two brothers, and our family dog. I played soccer, graduated from Garden City Collegiate, and along with everyone else my age, I learned to harbour a deep resentment towards my home town. It seems to me that many of my parent’s generation feel a resentment about Winnipeg and that in many cases it began to seep into the mindset of kids my age.
Many of us couldn't articulate why we didn't like Winnipeg beyond stating, simply, that we didn't. Our generation was taught that our city wasn't, and would never be, “cool.” It wasn't a bustling, interesting, thriving metropolis like other Canadian cities and nothing, according to our parents, was going to change that. In large part this laissez-faire attitude and general discontent towards our city was reflected in our choice of politicians.
For the vast majority of my life I don’t remember being inspired by a single politician, or as a young adult ever thinking that any of the people running for office ever had anything but their own best interests in mind. They weren't running for me, the citizen, and they certainly weren't running to try and make Winnipeg a better place.
When it came time to vote in municipal elections I often felt a strong sense of disappointment at the quality of the available candidates. It was frustrating because as I was starting to mature, grow and develop a deep love for my city, none of the candidates seemed to share and embody the same enthusiasm as myself and the other young people I was speaking to day-to-day.
I first began to really feel that sense of pride and love for Winnipeg when I took a class at the University of Winnipeg. The “History of Winnipeg” course, one of my required courses for my major, provided me with the opportunity to study our city’s history and to develop an appreciation for what sets Winnipeg apart from other cities in Canada. My professor was passionate about Winnipeg, and by the end of the term I found myself sitting in a class full of like-minded young adults who shared his passion for creating change and putting effort into making our city a better place. However, we all expressed the same disdain that City Hall didn't seem to share our vision or our passion.
By and large, we all felt under-represented, especially as our passion to make our city into a better place continued to grow. Each candidate seemed like more of the same, and often we found ourselves voting just to try and keep a particular candidate out of office, not because we actually believed in or identified with any of the candidates' platforms.
For many of us this is the first year that we're actively getting involved in politics at a municipal level, and that is largely because we have a candidate that we believe in. Because when we talk to Brian, and when we listen to him speak about his vision for Winnipeg, we feel that he shares our sense of genuine local pride.
We look at all the ways in which Brian has been involved in making Winnipeg a better place: chairing the U of M Alumni Association, chairing the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, as President of the Winnipeg Art Gallery and sitting on the board for Ka Ni Kanichihk, and we see someone who is dedicated to focusing their time and energy to making Winnipeg the best possible place to live.
Instead of supporting a career politician, we’re supporting someone from the community who has shown himself to be invested in seeing our businesses grow, our downtown thrive, and our city blossom into something that we can continue to be proud of.
Winnipeg deserves to be led by passionate and driven people who will inspire positive change, and I, and many young people like me, believe that Brian Bowman is the person who should lead our city forward into a future better than anything our cynical parents ever thought possible.
- by admin
(picture via Brian's campaign Twitter feed)
Because for all the times that I run my mouth about politics, and Winnipeg, and how much I love my city I realized recently that it's pretty easy armchair activist and not so easy to actually put yourself out there and get involved.
Yr girl was pretty anxious about it to be honest because despite being larger-than-life online, I'm actually pretty shy in real life.
But I really believe in Brian and I want to see him win and I figured that this would be the opportunity to do something positive for my city and also help support my candidate of choice.
Basically we knocked on doors, handed out a small flyer with some info on it, and asked residents if they knew who they were voting for in the fall election, and what Winnipeg issues were of a concern to them.
It was wonderful to get to talk to the residents of Charleswood and to find out what people in my city are concerned about, and also to put myself out of my comfort zone andpush my personal boundaries as well (I was really nervous for the first few doors). I also ran into some people with some very different views than my own so it was definitely a learning experience as well.
Posting and sharing stuff online is a pretty easy way to feel like you've made a difference, but actually getting out there and donating more than a tweet's worth of my time to my candidate of choice felt amazing, and I highly recommend it -I'll definitely be going out again!
(Big thanks to Jodi for getting me out!)
- by admin
Dutch PM Mark Rutte, who apparently showed up for his meeting with President Obama on a bike and is my personal hero.
From Google Translate: Four armored limousines for President Obama. Mark Rutte addresses are rather typical Dutch steel horse
- by admin
and it was a vote well spent.
- by admin
Mitt Romney strikes me, so hard.
Makes me feel like Shirley Sherrod.
Out of context, those words aren't mine.
The private sector's doing fine.
Feels good, when the economy's weak,
Responding with a national security leak.
Osama Bin Laden, I killed.
And that was a mission you didn't build.
If you've given three dollars before,
I'm asking again for a few dollars more.
Clint Eastwood and the empty chair
Would be bettter than this Republican pair.
Shut up, it's my turn.
Let's rap together. Go ahead. You've got a lot to learn.
Mr Ryan and his voucher retailin'.
Maybe he's just a brighter shade of Palin.
Mr Romney...and his friends on Wall Street.
What I'm saying is they're SuperPacking Heat.
And here is a woman Mitt killed.
But that was an attack ad you didn't build.
[JENNIFER GRANHOLM BREAKS IT DOWN]
The race is still in play.
So I gotta be careful about what I say.
And so, from the Australian nation,
I'll be introducing the Strine translation.
The Republican party in the debt ceiling fight.
Ravings of the eccentric, lunar right.
There are those who don't believe my birth certificate.
There are nut jobs on the internet.
To your guns keep on clinging.
To myself I'll be singing...
"I so in love with you."
What we need now is the Colbert Bump.
But, just for a minute lets all do the Trump.
Trump, Trump, Trump. Yeeeaah. Not bad, huh?
Hogan, this is the real American booking.
Do you smell what Barack is cooking?
Morning in America? Not quite.
It's pre-dawn, but we will soon see the light.
Financial straits remain dire.
You've got to remember I did not start this fire.
It was Notorious G.O.P.
And if you choose to vote for me,
I will not just call you maybe.
I am ready to go all the way, baby.
That promise will be fulfilled.
So join this chorus, you didn't build.
- by adminhad weird dreams which isn't unusual. if I told you guys half the weird shit I dream about every night you'd think I was crazy and be jealous that you don't get to have the same nighttime adventures I do.
it's why I love naps. you always get the weirdest dreams when you sleep during the day.
whenever I'm sick like I am today I curl up in bed with my ipad and fall asleep to futurama or something like it and wake up still convinced that I'm somewhere else. except today my dreams were weird and I had to wake up before they were over and as I rolled out of bed I wasn't even sure I was awake, my head was so stuffed up.
it's one of the only good things about being sick, especially when you're sick and have to drag your sorry sick ass to class because you have to do a presentation and then this chick that you hate who constantly challenges everything everyone says feels the need to keep you up there defending your presentation for ten minutes when you just want to fall over.
I'm not saying all feminists are like this, but why is it all the ornery, nitpicky bitches in any class I've ever taken always self-identify as "feminists"?
seriously. all yr girl wanted to do was go back to my desk and keep my head down while she harassed every other presenter today about how they were wrong. then the class started talking about 'blogs as a medium' and people started talking about jenna marbles and I nearly lost it.
it was just one of those days.
the only solution was to grab a sammich and lie on the couch with The President and watch battlestar gallactica which I'm watching for the first time (shh I know) and it's so intense omg.
I was still feeling like junk later when tyrone came home and started making me soup and kat came by on a wave of rainbows and cuteness with half a homemade pumpkin pie which was perfect and delicious and so sweet and we watched joe kill it during the debate which made everything better.
now I'm on one end of the couch writing this and drinking the best coffee and tyrone is feeding me pieces of the cake that we're sharing as we watch more BSG and Ford is here purring and everything is great.
funny how a bunch of small things can make yr day go to shit
and how some other small things can make it better
it's almost the weekend and I'm excited.
- by admin
spoiler: I'm not, but this upstanding young lady is.
this is how that video made me feel: