Three years ago, I ventured into a BlogHer conference in San Francisco where I hooked up with several green bloggers. Seated next to now retired JessTrev, we listened to a team of bloggers discuss the importance of other avenues. This was the first time I heard Twitter mentioned. One of the speakers tried to describe it to a blank-eyed group of women. "It's really cool!" she offered enthusiastically. "You follow other people and they follow you and you can jump in on other people's conversations." Mmmmm.
At lunch, though, the gathered green bloggers - Beth from Plasticfree Life (formerly Fake Plastic Fish), JessTrev, Jennifer Taggert of Smart Mama, Jenn from Tiny Choices and myself, agreed that we should all try Twitter. We'd been told that social media was the wave of the future and, well, we all wanted people to pay more attention to climate change. Here was an opportunity.
So I did. Kind of. I followed some people. They followed me. I found some new-to-me blogs that were interesting, met a few folks who kept chickens and one who was interested in reconnecting kids with nature. I figured it was a good way to build up my readership and pimp my blog. Whenever I got busy, though, Twitter was the first thing to go. I'd not check it for months. I'd forget my login. I'd delete the app from my phone.
After several months of this, another eco blogger friend threw in the towel. "I just don't get it," a friend confessed. Well, neither did I!
Then the revolutions across the Middle East came. Country after country toppled dictators and many thanked social media. One man went so far as to name his first born child Facebook. But why?
I went back on to Twitter one day, during this period. I wanted news but there were no news outlets reporting on the news I was interested. And then, finally, I got it!
I got why Twitter is the citizen's media.
Straight to my smart phone, I could receive information from folks on the ground in Libya faster than CNN could tell me. I learned about the earthquake in Japan before it was reported by the media. When all major news outlets ignored the massive protests in Wisconsin, I received up to the minute updates, photos and videos. One tweep (that's what you call fellow Twitter users) posited "if the revolution won't be televised, it will be twitterized."
Indeed, on March 3rd, even United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton proclaimed that Al Jazeera was gaining more viewers here in the US because it is "real news." You know, real news, where facts that we want to learn about are shared. As opposed to the biased talking heads who have taken over much of the 24 hour news cycle. As opposed to Charlie Sheen and Lindsey Loahn. Coverage of events that people care about. American news no longer covers what matters and no longer covers it in an unbiased fashion.
Why does this matter to environmentalists? We live in a time when only one third of Americans think Climate Change is a serious problem (as opposed to 87% of Europeans and 80% of Canadians). Global warming has become incredibly polarizing - seen as socialism, Marxism and a tool for derailing the limping US economy. Mainstream media is covering climate change less and less even while our climates are changing more and more.
If the media won't cover it, though, we will. If they won't share what is happening, we will. If we cannot trust the media, we can locate citizen tweeps who we can trust. The truth is just a retweet away.
So don your newsman hat, log on to Twitter and use those 140 characters can save the planet - because we ARE the media.
* Title from favorite green and progressive tweep, Ray Beckerham.
* Don't forget to check out Green Phone Booth superheroes on Twitter. See sidebar on the left.