How to Use Twitter to Engage in a Movement

Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images

“This is a movement, not a moment.” While activist Tarana Burke originally said these words in reference to the #MeToo movement that she created, the message is equally relevant in the fight for Black lives. As the media-fueled outrage begins to dissipate, it’s incredibly important to maintain the momentum. One effective place to do this: Twitter.

Yes, the social media platform has a reputation for being an echo chamber where memes flow more freely than meaningful dialogue, and it’s unusual to see a Twitter debate where anyone changes their viewpoint (as Joshua Adams noted on OneZero, Facebook is likely a better space for that sort of exchange since it’s harder to hide behind anonymity there). Still, in this particular moment in time, Twitter can be an accessible, informative space that can help you find resources, learn more about the current movement work being done, and discover who to follow and support to ensure the longevity of this fight for racial justice.

To that end, here are some resources and tips to help you stay informed, connected, and motivated on Twitter and beyond.

Search relevant hashtags on a regular basis

They can help you find protests, vigils, or gatherings to attend, point you to Twitter accounts to follow that will help you stay engaged, and give you an on-the-ground perspective on events as and after they happen. Some hashtags I’ve found useful: #BlackLivesMatter, #BlackTransLivesMatter, and any of the #JusticeFor tags such as #JusticeForBreonnaTaylor, #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd, and #JusticeForAhmaudAbery.

Follow the Black people you see doing the work

Follow the ones who are protesting, demanding justice, calling for defunding, and so on. Do your research and learn about these people, the movements they fight for, and where you can donate your money and time to best support their work. Use your voice to amplify these folks. A simple like or retweet (on something that’s been fact-checked — more on this below) can also go a long way and spreads their content to spaces where your own followers are more likely to see it.

Don’t speak over their voices or explain things back to them. Trust that the people who are most affected are also the voices of authority on what needs to change. Get behind these people and help push the movement forward by doing what they ask supporters to do.

Train yourself to notice discrepancies in what we’re told is normal

One example of this is the white protesters with guns and bulletproof vests who stormed the Michigan State House in April to protest the state’s stay-at-home orders. Contrast this with peaceful demonstrators across the country, many of whom are Black, who are protesting the ongoing racial violence and police murders of Black people. Can you guess which group police opted to shoot with tear gas and rubber bullets? (A hint: not the ones who brought weapons into a government building.)

Question the dichotomies that allow fully armed white folks to threaten public spaces while normalizing excessive force used against Black people doing nothing but peacefully marching.

Fact-check all information you see online

This includes information published in sources many accept as reputable, such as the New York Times and other traditional publishing spaces. It includes information posted by white folks that doesn’t link to Black folks. It includes information that you only see from one or two people and information you see from hundreds.

If you see a rally you want to attend, search the name via Twitter hashtags and Google it. Ask your friends what they know about the folks organizing it. Follow accounts that fact-check themselves.

Get used to being wrong, getting called out, and changing your opinion

Information on Twitter moves fast. It’s easy to share a quote or a fact and realize later that you made a mistake. Normalize changing your opinion when presented with new information. If you’ve tweeted something wrong, don’t delete it — post an update and link to that update in the original tweet.

Remember that being wrong isn’t a moral failing but a factual one and one that can be corrected and recovered from. Discovering you were wrong isn’t a reason to throw up your hands and walk away from the fight. Rather, it’s an opportunity to learn.

Understand that this work is far greater than a hashtag

It’s also more exhausting than a march and much more than a moment. This is a movement, and we work with the tools we have. Those tools will change over time as will the ways in which information is communicated. Do your best to stay on top of the situation — not the situation as portrayed by the voices in power but the situation as reported by those on the ground, in the front lines of a fight that will keep going as long as we’re here.

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