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