How Twitter Enhances Me

March 9, 2009
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By Jillian C. York, a writer, blogger, and political activist. I am a project coordinator for the OpenNet Initiative at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and deeply involved with Global Voices Online and Herdict. (Follow me at @jilliancyork.)

As a writer and activist, I believe firmly in the power of social media. Although I […]


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By Jillian C. York, a writer, blogger, and political activist. I am a project coordinator for the OpenNet Initiative at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and deeply involved with Global Voices Online and Herdict. (Follow me at @jilliancyork.)

Meet Jillian YorkAs a writer and activist, I believe firmly in the power of social media. Although I may use it differently than you, I think that’s part of its beauty – social media allows for a variety of uses for different types of people and different purposes.

I use Facebook to network with old friends and fellow activists, LinkedIn for writing opportunities and as a virtual CV, and BrightKite to upload photos corresponding to my location.  But Twitter – oh, Twitter! – is my favorite.

I started using Twitter almost a year ago.
I remember it clearly: I was attending WeMedia Miami 2008, and peering over the various shoulders in front of me, noticed that everyone had Twitter open at some point or another.  Not liking to feel left out, I sent a quick IM to a friend down the aisle, who explained it quickly.  Within an hour, I had an account set up, an avatar next to my name, and was on a Twitter roll.

Since then, I’ve barely been able to step away.

You see, Twitter has enhanced the way I do business. I have a job—a really fantastic full-time job, in fact, working for the OpenNet Initiative (I tweet for them too at @OpenNet)–but due to an all-consuming passion for writing and the Internet, I also do a lot of other collaborative work on the side.  Many of my writing projects involve global issues such as Internet censorship and digital activism, but before Twitter, I often found it difficult to source opinions from people in other countries.  Not anymore…I’ll give you an example:

During the U.S. elections I worked with Ari and a number of other folks on a project called Voices without Votes, which collected blog posts from the global community on what was happening here in the States.  In the beginning, I would simply flip through my RSS feeds or use Google Blog Search to discover what folks around the world were talking about (just as I do with VwV’s parent project, Global Voices Online).  During the elections, however, I noticed that much of the discussion was happening in real-time, on Twitter.  So I tried something new; instead of sourcing just from blogs, I began collecting snippets of Twitter conversations and including them in my round-ups.  The response was very positive!

As Ari mentioned numerous times, Twitter and other social media are playing an increasingly large role in our government, and I support his thesis.  In particular, I feel that Twitter affords the opportunity to the Obama administration to communicate with citizens on a personal level as never before.  Of course, the tweets would almost certainly not be from President Obama himself, nor would they be on any deeply personal level, but any step toward better communication between the government and the people is a step in the right direction.

As for who I follow?  Well, I do follow a number of social media “gurus” including Ari himself, but the rest of my follows are related to my work with Internet censorship and my personal political interests.  You’re welcome of course, to check it out on my own Twitter page!


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