I recently caved in to the modern world and signed up to join Twitter. From what I've been reading in the blogosphere, it looks like I'm not alone in making the leap over the past couple of months; many bloggers I follow have also recently signed on. I am @writercize if you have an interest in following me. I must admit I do not have a plan of action for my five W's of tweeting (who? what? where? when? why?), but I understand it's an important self-branding tool so as a freelance writer branding means business.
For many people in the United States, I think that twitter is just that - a branding tool. For others, it's a way to impart tidbits of news information, like the tickers at the bottom of cable news, and for some it's a way to slice through the Facebook noise straight to the origins of status updates. Twitter use in the United States is certainly of interest for social networking strategies in the 21st century, but what really fascinates me is Twitter use worldwide.
A couple of weeks ago I was listening to (op ed) news coverage about the Middle East uprising, now coined Arab Spring. One of the speakers was of the belief that the uprisings and desire for democracy and transparent government were directly linked to Obama's foreign policy, which the speaker perceives as laid-back when it comes to championing democracy. In his opinion, Bush's "cowboy" politics of promoting democracy were undermining the citizens' own desire for democracy. In other words, he felt that Middle Easterners living under oppressive regimes were unable to express their own desire for a democratic republic because of anti-American sentiments - pro-democracy would be associated with pro-America and thus anti-Arab/anti-Islam with reference to perceived foreign policy. He believes that by Obama taking a step back on talk of spreading democracy world-wide, citizens were able to declare themselves pro-democracy and not be instantly associated with American policy.
So, what are my thoughts on this and how does it relate to Twitter (and writercize for that matter!)? Bear with me - I'm getting there.
As much as I cringe at any leader trying to spread their preferred government on another country (there's a reason more than one type of government exists in the world, and to assume every nation's history and structure will neatly fit into the idea of democracy, particularly imposed by a foreign nation with political backing for any potential candidate, seems naive at best to me - and all too reminiscent of ideas manifest destiny and ethnically challenged missionaries - but I digress), I believe the speaker was giving both Obama and Bush far too much credit for their respective impact on Middle East politics.
Don't get me wrong - I recognize the complex relationship between the United States and the Middle East is important and weighs heavily on the minds of citizens from countries around the globe - but I truly don't believe the protesters who rose up to defy oppressive dictators did so with either Obama or Bush at the forefront of their minds.
What spurned the uprisings? What made the difference to allow them to stand up today and not five years ago? Was it the change of the American president several time zones away?
Twitter, Facebook, and a population that is young enough to adapt quickly to new technology but old enough to be educated and ready for a workforce that was non-existent. Five years ago, there was no Twitter. Facebook was still in its infancy, and to the best of my knowledge not available outside of the US and British university system. The demographics of the population, which in many nations throughout the Middle East are composed of 60%+ citizens under the age of 30, were just enough younger to still be in school or just graduated.
Five years have brought a new American president, yes, and perhaps that has marginally influenced the timing of the uprising, but more importantly, five years brought the technology to connect real people. People could band together virtually in groups with similar interests, tweet the horrifying reality of eye-witness news accounts of unjust brutality, commiserate about the impossibilities of finding gainful employment despite university education and multi-lingual skill sets. As one group of protesters experienced success, they could tweet about it and update Facebook, giving others the courage to press on, risking their lives for something they believe in.
writing exercise: Reflect for a moment on something that really matters to you, something that you would take a stand on or an overwhelming sentiment relating to world affiars. It could be political, or it could relate to ethics such as the environment or equality. For your next tweet, in lieu of branding or one of your standard updates, let people know what you really care about.
(Non-twitter users, you can still participate in the exercise too. Here's the trick about twitter - you are limited to 160 characters per tweet, so you must be precise in your writing. Post your thought as a comment below, and be sure to count your characters!)
Click "read more" for writercizer sample response.writercizer response:
I have to say I'm torn on this. I'd like to tweet about the horrifying videos I've seen of violence in Syria, and I will, but that's hardly personal or new. I'd like to tweet about the environment and conservation because I believe we could all do so much more to take care of our lifeboat. I'd like to tweet about health care in general and about technology I think should be used in annual exams as part of preventative care to detect diseases earlier. So, I'll tackle one and then vow to continue to tweet about things besides branding that are important to me. (And hopefully not step on too many toes in the process!)
Here's my tweet: