This whole Facebook thing got me thinking about Twitter.
If FB can mess with our heads by sending us all kinds of spam and sell our personal data to creeps, what’s happening on my Twitter feed?
Not a heck of a lot, at least as far as I can tell, since I’m sort of insignificant. I get a crazy number of ads, but not much bad stuff happens; whereas, I have been experiencing some weird and interesting things on FB.
That's not the case with others.
Those with 10 million followers — think Robert Downey Jr. — have to battle the hackers, the posing wannabes and weirdos, and distinguish their sites from fan sites. I don’t know how many fan and fake RDJ sites are out there, but I suspect they are legion.
So, RDJ and many other celebs have been putting little blue checkmarks beside their Twitter handles to verify that yes, it’s “real-ly” them. Now, I’m finding more regular folk doing the same.
But is Twitter, in general, a better, safer place to engage? I don't know yet. I'm still new to this, in many ways. And I'm certainly no expert in social media safety.
So, a little Twitter background. A few months ago, I joined an author’s support group which also does a lot of tweeting, and I hooked up with people, mostly authors, from far away — Ireland, Scotland, England and the Netherlands, for example. Via this bunch, I also found a few rabid fans of the TV series Outlander (all authors want to be Diana Gabaldon, or at least as successful as she is, when they grow up).
Call me stupid, innocent, or generally disinterested in celebrity news, but it had never before occurred to me to follow an actor, politician (outside Canada), or any other famous sort of person. I used Twitter mostly to stay on top of breaking news.
Suddenly, I’m following Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe from Outlander, along with Scott Kyle (who was kind enough to follow me), as well as Douglas Henshall (Shetland series), Krysten Ritter (Jessica Jones, now watching) and the Wolverine himself, Hugh Jackman.
It’s been kind of fun, connecting with people in other parts of the world and following celebrity stuff. It has also been revealing, and that I did not expect. Some famous people actually use Twitter to do nice things. Some don’t.
Let me give you an example. I don’t think I can have two conversations without Donald Trump’s angry, nasty and unhelpful tweets coming into one of them. Here’s a beauty.
@realDonaldTrump: The big Caravan of People from Honduras, now coming across Mexico and heading to our “Weak Laws” Border, had better be stopped before it gets there. Cash cow NAFTA is in play, as is foreign aid to Honduras and the countries that allow this to happen. Congress MUST ACT NOW!
Okay, I know it's different being an artist than POTUS. But it still hit me (call me a late to the game if you must) how social media can be used for good instead of evil, for building up instead of tearing down (Mexican border wall excepted). So, for contrast, example one:
@RealHughJackman tweeted kudos to Cate Blanchett, who spoke up for thousands of #Rohingya @refugees at risk during monsoon season in Bangladesh. (I couldn’t find a Blanchett tweet on this, by the way.)
Then he sent out a salute to women around the world on International Women’s Day, especially "the fiercest woman I know" @Deborra_lee (That’s his wife, Deborra-lee Furness.)
Also for Women's Day came some truly moving and meaningful support from @SamHeughan, who plays Jamie in Outlander. He posted a love letter to "every female body" and a video at
#https://vimeo.com/258115234 (password: female form.) He noted that regardless of body type, every women's shape "has been the definition of perfection at some point" and that we are all exposed to unattainable ideals of beauty.
As does Downey with Random Act Funding, Heughan directs his own charity called My Peak Challenge, whereby he inspires people to achieve fitness/health/whatever they want to strive for, and supports charities from the proceeds.
He also made a £100 rugby bet with his co-star when Scotland played Ireland. When the latter won, @caitrionambalfe picked her charity: a seven-year-old boy who has a rare kind of muscular dystrophy. ( http://www.victory4vincent.com/). And she matched Heughan's £100.
Yes, they paid up; I checked. (The journalist in me.)
A bunch of other people matched their money, too. The power of celebrity, sure; but also the power to inspire health, help a little boy, support charities . . . as opposed to the power to intimidate, anger and denounce. And, they're clearly running their own accounts, unlike other celebs who get branding companies to do it for them.
And then I thought . . . can everyone behave this way, if on a smaller scale? Imagine the good we could do if we used social media the way (I think) it should be used. No sniping, no hacking, no threatening. No racist or misogynist comments. No data mining or fake news.
Just kindness, love and support. And opinion, sure, minus the above sniping.
Saskatchewan's recent tragedy also showed how that could be done (although at least one commentator was horrible about the disaster. Sigh. She is not from Saskatchewan.) When the Humboldt Broncos hockey team was in an unthinkable crash that killed 16 and injured 13, people used Twitter to connect us all. Showed us how to provide support; pointed us to the GoFundMe page; kept us up to date on the terrible but important news. #HumboldtStrong. You can do that on Twitter, more easily than Facebook, right? Where you have to make friends first?
From kind and passionate celebrities to those of us muddling through our less visible lives, we can do social media with grace, and object when we encounter the opposite. Political views have a place, certainly, but they need not be put forward with hate or derision. Promotion has a place, too, but not to the exclusion of being human.
My middle name must be Pollyanna. But let's try to love each other, for heaven's sake, on social media as well as everywhere else. It obviously can be done.
Hugh Jackman photo by Pedro Haas. Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan photo by Sidewalks Entertainment. Both photos Flickr Creative Commons.
The guts of this blog originally and partly appeared as a column in the Saskatoon Express, but has been edited and updated.