I don’t tweet.
I have a Twitter account. I made it in the days where Twitter still wasn’t blocked on our school-issued Chromebooks. I used my full name because tweaking names to sound cool was (and still is) too MySpace. I even uploaded a picture of myself. If you look at my tweet count though, you’ll see that even though I may have an account, I’ve never posted anything. I have zero tweets.
Go ahead and search for me.
My profile isn’t typical of a seventeen-year-old high schooler because it’s bland. There’s nothing to it. In a world that thrives on constant updates of daily life and almost hourly posts that glorify food, cats and sleeping, I am a nonconformist.
There wasn’t any specific reason for choosing the non-tweeting life. Twitter initially became popular at my school because it was the sole, unblocked social-media site on our Chromebooks. Teenage hordes descended upon the server, hungry for a medium through which they could express themselves. Here, all of their inner thoughts and feelings were limited to 140 characters or less. But the inner thoughts and feelings of high schoolers often don’t comply to what is deemed appropriate by teachers and the administration. This was the case at our school.
As Twitter feeds became cluttered by 140-character hate rants on school, homework, teachers, other people and illegal activities, Twitter became a thing of the past on our Chromebooks. The administrators felt it was necessary to block Twitter. The sole survivor, the lone wolf, the last one standing in a field of downed social media sites; Twitter was no more.
I thought that was the end of Twitter at our school, at least in regards to the accessibility of the site on our Chromebooks. Students abused their powers and didn’t heed the warnings, so the administration took action. But it turned out that the closing of the Twitter situation at school wasn’t as plain and simple as I, and many others, had written it off to be. The Syrian Revolution happened. It’s still happening, and it’s terrible, but with it, I saw a different use for the social media site.
Twitter began to stand for something else. The whole world saw it.
Twitter was being used to organize protests and help build and maintain the popular uprising, taking on the role of foreign journalists who were barred from reporting in Syria. These Twitter users were modern muckrakers, and their productive use of the social media site made our situation at school look all the more immature. Where people were inciting revolution in other parts of the world, we were too busy abusing Twitter for the sole purpose of entertaining the ones around us. With simple entertainment comes inappropriate material. With inappropriate material come scowling administrators, and with scowling administrators come Chromebook Twitter filters. Twitter was dead at our school, even though it was actively fueling a revolution elsewhere.
And where everybody was talking about it, I still didn’t tweet.
#Leyden Pride’s Social Media Revolution
Just like the Syrian Revolution presented a different use for Twitter, I witnessed the same shift occurring at my school not long afterwards. An enthusiastic new principal, a new 1:1 Chromebook policy and a Twitter-deprived student body provided the perfect means for a local Twitter Revolution. The district wasn’t fighting for the implementation of a new government so much that it was fighting a war of redefining what it meant to be a part of our school--a definition that would mesh together exemplary digital citizenship and school pride. #Leydenpride did just that.
#Leydenpride set the precedent for 1:1 districts everywhere. Instead of repressing Twitter and restricting students from using it, our principal steered the use of it away from mindless tweeting and created #Leydenpride. Students were encouraged to tweet any news pertaining to the school under the new hashtag. The trend gradually caught on as the use of Twitter became something more than just an outlet for boredom.
Tweets of athletic successes started popping up under the hashtag in real time. From backstage, the theatre kids were luring audiences to come view their shows. Numerous clubs were tweeting upcoming meeting times and events to encourage student participation. People were using the hashtag to promote any and all things school-related. They still do, and what’s great is that the hashtag embodies the diverse spirit of our district. Students had already been tagging posts with the hashtag, but now, that students were could control the actual account for a set period of time, the student voice of our school could be heard loud and clear.
“You know you’re late to morning swim practice if you can see the sun rising #Leydenpride”
The above tweet gave the school community a glimpse of the secret schedules of the district’s swimmers. Still other tweets under the account and hashtag incentivized school spirit.
“First to retweet gets donuts for their homeroom #Leydenpride”
The tweeting was successful because it was relevant to us students now. Even though Twitter is still forbidden on the Chromebooks and I’m still tweet-less, I’ve seen just how large of an impact the hashtag has left on our school’s culture. #Leydenpride is dropped on the daily, and the support that it garners from everybody at school is representative of something bigger than just a silly hashtag. The focus around Twitter and #Leydenpride has changed the school forever.
Had our principal not introduced an alternative to mindless Twitter usage, our school might have never achieved such recognition. And that recognition is part of our image, too--an image that is constantly changing shape and molding itself in accordance with all of the student #Leydenpride tweets. Our generation will be know as the digital generation, it already is known as such, but the overarching frame stands for so much more than that. Both the Syrian Revolutions and #Leydenpride have displayed that is possible to unify large groups of people together, just as it’s possible to get a name out or completely redefine something without ever even needing to talk out loud.
And with that, I realize my stubborn nonconformity isn’t something to tout. The world is progressing forward, and as someone who is always involved in everything that is going on around me, abstaining from Twitter only inhibits my knowledge and influence.
I don’t tweet because I know I don’t want to fall victim to the food and cat and sleep obsessed posts on Twitter, but I do know that I want to contribute positively to my generation. I’m obliged to contribute to my generation.
Maybe I’ll tweet today. Maybe I’ll tweet for the first time tomorrow. Maybe I’ll tweet a week from now, or even a month. But it really doesn’t matter when I tweet, because Twitter has taught me and the rest of my generation the power of spreading ideas. It’s a power that didn’t exist back then, but it can be used in anything from political movements, to business promotions to promoting school spirit today. Twitter has changed how we perceive immediate communication, and I am a witness to the change it has brought about to my school and the world.