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Twitter

 

I started a Twitter account in the spring of 2010, to follow Cassandra Wilson (thank you @reallycassandra)—but it was December before I tweeted anything myself  >>> 

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My first tweet

 

>>> & it was the day after Christmas 2010 at the kitchen table when I saw the news from @Souihli in Tunis about a young man born five Marches before my son >>> 

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>>> & saw this: 

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Eventually I figured out that Twitter included celebrities & people tweeting to their friends, but I came to it a different way: 

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>>> & I started to spend time in Birdland every day, as the drama of the uprising in Tunisia & then in Egypt was unfolding. The first person ever to answer me on Twitter was @Souihli, from Tunis, after I retweeted & translated something from French—@Souihli explained that more people would get the message if I knew what a hashtag was.  (Shukran.)

I still have no idea what @Souihli looks like, to which gender(s) @Souihli might belong, or what @Souihli's other names might be. The basis of our connection was our excitement over yet another unlikely outbreak of human freedom, & this technology let us share this. I've never had a Facebook account, which always seemed to me from a distance a little like treating friends like strangers—I loved discovering Twitter because it seemed to do the opposite, treating strangers like friends.

One of these strangers/friends was/is the amazing Dima Khatib, Al Jazeera bureau chief for Latin America, based in Caracas, who sent messages in eight languages about revolution & about the moon: 

 

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It was a great gift when part of the spirit that swept through Tunisia & Egypt touched my Manhattan in the fall of 2011, & Dima could hashtag #ows back to me >>>

 

Dima was not a 'nobody' as per this tweet, <<< but she was part of a network that fascinated me, of citizens, "giving information to the ppl"—a group I inadvertently & proudly became part of, mainly by listening & spreading around, via retweets & translations, what other people said: 

 
[From Sourcing the Arab Spring: A Case Study of Andy Carvin's Sources During the Tunisian & Egyptian Revolutions, Alfred Hermida. Paper presented at the International Symposium on Online Journalism in Austin, TX / April 2012.]

[From Sourcing the Arab Spring: A Case Study of Andy Carvin's Sources During the Tunisian & Egyptian Revolutions, Alfred Hermida. Paper presented at the International Symposium on Online Journalism in Austin, TX / April 2012.]

 
[From Egypt Unshackled: Using Social Media to @#:) the System, Denis G. Campbell, Cambria Books, 2011.]

[From Egypt Unshackled: Using Social Media to @#:) the System, Denis G. Campbell, Cambria Books, 2011.]


In three years, Twitter has changed the way I find news:  ending my decades-long affair with the New York Times, & my few years of reading half a dozen newspapers in three languages on line, luring me most days into the living stream of a timeline, with its details & jokes & immediacies & quarrels & inaccuracies & exhortations & thousands of possibilities for learning more in other directions. Twitter has made that other kind of news seem a little like eating food someone else has already chewed.

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[Poster by Aaron Wood, justonescarf design]

[Poster by Aaron Wood, justonescarf design]

From the beginning I've loved Twitter's haiku brevities, counteracting some part of the Master Narratives that had seeped into my own beauty-sense as a writer:  Twitter has cropped me, stripped me, jostled my solemnities, in the way it puts rough drafts of history next to what someone had for breakfast or wishes s/he'd had. One strange, solitary part of being a writer—wanting strangers in your deepest intimacies, but not while you're in the room—with Twitter seems suddenly shared. It's eavesdropping but the emancipatory kind. It's as if the world had a voice, & we're learning new ways to listen. 

 


I've learned that I'm not a very good reporter; I like to go home & think, I get too excited, torn between participating & observing, my hands shake. (But where would this world be without the videos of citizens whose hands shake?) But Twitter has changed how I experience street demonstrations—because now, more often than not, I'm telling someone:  not a someone related to me by any conventional measure, but a someone who's no one, maybe who's everyone:  maybe Margaret Walker's 'a world that will hold all the people,' which might look something like this (courtesy of twtrland.com) :

(When I was a kid in Scituate I was jealous when I read that Virginia Woolf got her mail delivered twice a day...) 

(I still wish Twitter would say Reader instead of Follower) (I read you but I don't necessarily follow you, & I want that in return)  

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M o r e  o n  T w i t t e r  v i a  #Jan25  &  #SidiBouzid  >>>

M o r e  o n  T w i t t e r  v i a  #Jan25  &  #SidiBouzid  >>>