March 4, 2014

Why I love and hate Twitter. #NEDAW #EDAW2014 #exhausted

Two of my loved ones sent me this, spontaneously, within an hour last week.



Very funny.

But timely. My fingertips were numb from tweeting. Now that Eating Disorder Awareness week season is over, hundreds of tweets later, I'm recovering sensation in my hands and ready to reflect.

This was the EDAW of the tweet. If you were not on Twitter this week you missed some of the most interesting, most exasperating, and realest moments of eating disorder advocacy to date. The problem is, not that many of my friends and allies ARE on Twitter. Parents, in particular, are only lately getting involved.

And I hate Twitter. Sorry, I do. I hate it like every cliquey, cool kid, inside joke, jargony, all-in or completely out of it situation in life. I hate Tweetchats particularly.

And yet, last week I was actively involved with two important Tweetchats*, engaged in two successful and one unsuccessful twitter campaign, met several new allies, developed a number of relationships, discovered budding activists, had a few fights,  and generally got in a word about issues that matter to me with people I would otherwise never have interacted with without Twitter.

Hashtag #sigh #Internetisamixedblessing #makeitstop.

Twitter isn't just a way to insult celebrities or howl at a cyber moon. It truly is a way to be the first to hear research news, to know what your allies are doing and thinking, to maintain relationships with your allies, and of course to be a thumb in the eye to miscreants. Oh, but it is exhausting. I could, easily, expend all day just reading tweets and responding to them. I could make a full-time job of just Twitter advocacy.

Unfortunately, Twitter advocacy doesn't stand alone. It is the nexus of all else going on in the field and media and research. Tweets are links to people and pages and networks. Twitter is a hub of Facebook (right now where much of the rest of advocacy has migrated), of LinkedIn, of Google+, of Instagram, of forums and private emails and organizations and PEOPLE.

You can't do this stuff effectively if you only show up sporadically. It is bad form to retweet stale stuff. People who aren't consistently monitoring their feed, and doing the #FF and RTing in real time fall off the edge of the Twittersphere. You know that co-worker who is out of the office all the time, doesn't sign the birthday cards, never comes out for drinks, and then expects to know why so-and-so is crying and the movers have taken the desks?

This year has been particularly interesting, as viewed by Twitter, because the online activism revealed some of the differences between activists, and reflected the conflicts in a public way. More EDA curmudgeons expressed dismay at the mainstream. And, for a change, there was conversation about it rather than people needily tweeting into the ether about their own work and angst.

If you care about eating disorders awareness and advocacy and you weren't tuned in last week to Twitter, now's the time to get caught up and give some thought to 2015. You can't learn Twitter in a day, nor can you build your readers and relationships instantly.

Now, if we're lucky by 2016 we'll have moved on from Twitter and there will be better ways to communicate and stay in the know. But you know where we'll find out about those other ways? Twitter.

*NIMH Tweetchat on eating disorders
*AED Tweetchat on Social Media and Advocacy

PS Crikey! I got 188 192 new tweets on my feed in the time it took to write this. Good grief!

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