Screaming at the water-cooler


As a writer who works from home, I can be kinda ambivalent about twitter. I follow a pretty wide range of tweeps – activists, game-designers, readers, journalists, other writers, people I have met at parties, artists, celebrity accounts, runners, computer programmers, conservationists, archers, photographers, chefs, mommy-bloggers, Curate-accounts…. so things can get pretty loud and angry sometimes. Lots of opinions, lots of voices all Being Right.


I’m online because twitter is my water-cooler. It’s where I hang out when I have my tea, and interact with Other Humans who are not eight years old. It’s where I get the news (often before it breaks), where I can get sucked into rants and discourses. Unfortunately, for a large portion of last year, twitter started to get really unfriendly. Not to me, particularly, but it became a place where I would be guaranteed to leave fuming. People fighting non-stop, throwing tantrums, trolling, being cruel – both in attack and defense. It became a pretty shitty place to hang out with tea.


I quietened down some of the people I was following, which helped, but I refuse to simply turn twitter into an echo-chamber, where everyone always agreed with me, and me alone. I became a lot faster on the mute-button, allowing that there were days where people I otherwise liked were just pushing me too close to a ragey edge.


But I wanted to see good there again. I wanted to see the connections, the community, the sheer force of working to help that twitter can be. I guess I got my wish. So, if you’re not in South Africa, you may not know, but the mountains near where I live are on fire. (#CTFires) It’s a really huge fire, destroying 1000s of hectares of mountain reserve, creeping close to settlements, and generally causing a lot of grief and fear.


But twitter. Wow, twitter and its other social media cousins have been an eye-opener. Just when I’m ready to give up because dear god could people get any more petty – a wave of support comes crashing though the twittersphere, spreading donations, prayers, good thoughts, money, food, time, animal rescue, offers of housing…. People are organising collections, tweeting about the need for more halaal food donations, spreading the numbers of snake and tortoise experts, child care service for fire-fighters… It’s glorious.


When these flames are finally doused, I want to remember what twitter can be for. Not just an ego-loaded mess of opinions and selfies and rants, but a place where we can help others.


And if that sounds all hippie and stuff, welp, then I’m a gorram smelly hippie and proud of it.

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