Activism and Twitter

by LouAnn Villani, Middle East Crisis Committee

With social distancing making in-person rallies impossible, people are looking for ways to get their message across. Virtual rallies via Zoom now take place in addition to ‘Twitter Storms.’ Participants are asked to go on their Twitter Feed and message their representatives all at the same time.

Since Trump took it up and won such a following all politicians and media people have taken to it. It’s easy to use and it’s easy to see which of your messages are popular (being retweeted).

Supposedly politicians and the media think the remarks they see on Twitter and the volumes of approval and disapproval there really reflect what the U.S. public thinks. It’s probably not true (only 1 in 5 Americans use Twitter regularly), but if it influences political discourse, activists should use it.

Twitter is free and it takes just minutes to make an account at twitter.com. It will want a first and last name, an email and date of birth. You’ll have to verify the email by responding to its email. Twitter gives you a user-name based on the name you gave it. So if you enter John Smith you may get @jsmith493. You’ll need to create a password and to “follow” the Twitter Feeds of a couple of people and then you’re in.

Twitter messages are no more than 280 characters (about the size of the second paragraph of this article. You can also attach photos and memes (they don’t count as characters). Usually you include in your tweet user-names of people or media that you are trying to influence. Example: @nytimes @GovNedLamont Politicians and the media search for their twitter handles to see what people are saying to them. The media @NickKristof will sometimes respond to people who are trying to contact them.

The easiest thing to do is to follow certain people or media sources and retweet the things you like. To “retweet” means to click on the double-curved arrow button below the tweet. This puts the message into your Twitter Feed with a tiny message that you retweeted it. Your follower gets to see it and the creator of the original tweet gets a bit of support. More at pepeace.org/twitter-techniques.

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