The chicken, the egg and the slacktivist

Benjamin Boles, the Music Editor at NOW, said something on Twitter the other day that caught my attention. “The problem with treating Twitter as purely an activist tool,” he said, “is that you tend to start seeing everyone as either ally or enemy.”

There’s a lot of truth to this. We’ve all known people who treat Twitter like a battleground. They back up the people they see as their friends, they challenge the people they see as their enemies, and they judge everyone by the company they keep. The more rigid their view of the world is, the less interesting and worth following they tend to be.

But is this a problem with Twitter? Or is it just an existing fault in some people that Twitter happens to bring out? “Some, who already see the world that way,” I argued, “may then be drawn to Twitter as a tool.”

In the end, we agreed that there are lots of examples of both on Twitter. Some people might find it easy to dehumanize their “enemies” because of the lack of personal interaction and nuance, while others might take to Twitter because it lets you design your own personal echo chamber.

I hope we can all agree that none of these people are making the most out of Twitter. Despite its limitations, it’s a remarkable conversation tool, and one that provides untold opportunities to learn from other people and broaden our perspectives. If you’re only using it to reinforce your beliefs, not to mention your prejudices, then you’re doing it wrong.

Obviously, this is just my opinion. What do you think counts as a good use of Twitter, or similar social networks? What’s your daily routine, and how would you like to improve it? How could we use networks like these to supplement the work we do for change? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Posted in Social Action

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