Twitter. Everyone’s heard of it. Most people see it as Facebook’s less popular cousin, though still far more popular than their buddy Google Plus.
While it is a social networking site, like Facebook, Twitter is really in a category of its own in terms of connecting people and exploring current events. With Facebook, you must be friends with someone in real life, however casually, before they become part of your network. And this has its place. On Twitter, however, you can follow interesting people, and you can also connect with any person talking about a topic you are interested in, simply by clicking a hashtag or typing into the general search bar. You can explore currently trending topics, and most shared tweets about certain topics. The author doesn’t have to “friend you” for you to eavesdrop on their conversations, or even join them.
Twitter helps you get involved & get educated
I have found that if you are interested in causes such as the environment, animal welfare, human rights, feminism, or really anything, you can learn a lot and get active on Twitter. You can find discussions, links to blog posts, petitions and websites. You can join the conversation, post things you find interesting, and get active in things like tweetstorms, a coordinated event during which many people tweet the same hashtags at once, in order to raise awareness of an issue or even get the topic trending regionally or locally. Connecting with people online who are interested in causes you care about… bonus!
In Egypt in 2011, people used Twitter to organize, spread news and information on the streets as it happened, and share photographs. As the world saw, Twitter evolved into something different during that time, and has continued to bring us news and photographs from the heart of the storm during civil disobedience and protests. In February 2014 on the streets of Kiev, a medic named Olesya Zhukovska was shot in the neck by a sniper and tweeted “I’m dying.” A photograph of her, holding a blood-soaked cloth to her neck, accompanied the post. While Zhukovska survived, the tweet brought the sniper-filled streets of Kiev to the computers of those around the world.
I believe that Twitter signals a return to reality for photojournalism. Our governments have attempted to sanitize and politicize war and conflict around the world, bringing us patriotic sound-bites while the bodies pile up. But Twitter brings us photos and news direct from the streets, not filtered through multi-national news media. It reminds me of the Vietnam war, and how the hippie movement grew out of seeing the photos of the realities of war. Since then, government and news media have worked together to change the message into something that aligns with their goals. But they have lost control of the flood, and reality is getting through.
Basically, sign up for twitter and start tweeting. Links that are interesting. Photos that you like. Petitions. Raise awareness about things that actually matter to you. And sure, follow a few comedians while you are at it, you could use a good laugh.