Social media and social justicePublished 10:28am Friday, August 3, 2012
Column: Jeremy Corey-Gruenes, Paths to Peace
I arrived a little late to Facebook, and I mocked Twitter until just recently because I didn’t think such a thing would last. I was once told by a technology expert that people will one day get almost all their news and information from Twitter or a similar service. In blurbs of just 140 characters? I laughed because I just didn’t understand how that was possible, but now I see it might be true. Twitter is an amazing tool that really caters well to our ever-shrinking attention spans and affinity for immediate gratification.
For nearly two months earlier this year, local golf celebrity and fellow teacher Riley Worth cried out “Follow me on Twitter!” each time we parted company, which was about four times a day. He’s always been a self-promoting goof ball, and I found his commitment to pursuing me as one of his followers hilarious. “What the heck is he tweeting about anyway?” I thought. So I joined Twitter and viewed a tweet from @RileyWorth the next morning.
“I finally realized why waffles are superior to pancakes. The butter and syrup get trapped in the holes.”
Not exactly earth shattering news, but sort of funny, especially if you know the tweeter.
Beyond pancakes, Twitter is great for journalism. Journalists who have embraced Twitter provide an incredible service. Followers get near-instant updates on news as it’s happening and can send links to larger stories and video content.
I’m a devoted Timberwolves fan, and I’ve been following Albert Lea native and Star Tribune T-Wolves beat writer Jerry Zgoda on Twitter for coverage of off-season free agent moves, trade speculations and all things T-Wolf. Zgoda follows other NBA writers and players and retweets relevant messages from them to his followers to expand his coverage. Twitter can bring you inside a world previously only inhabited by professional journalists and the newsmakers they follow.
Twitter’s most valuable attribute to me is its potential to promote peace, justice, and social change. Just imagine the advantage civil rights activists would have had in the 1960s had they been able to utilize social networks like Twitter and Facebook to organize, publicize and document their events, to send a quick tweet directing followers to a video or audio link from a protest or speech.
Social networks connect people, often like-minded people who might not have realized there was already a community of others out there who share their beliefs and concerns. Users on Twitter and Facebook are connecting people and organizations right now by promoting one of the most important civil rights issues of my lifetime: Marriage equality for all.
On Facebook I’ve connected with a group called Catholics for Marriage Equality, MN. Following only traditional media and the words of many religious leaders, many might not be aware of just how many people are finding that faith calls them to fight for true marriage equality.
Through Twitter I’ve connected with organizations such as Minnesotans United for All Families, which is the leading group working to defeat the proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in Minnesota. I also get tweets from Faith Forward MN, a video project documenting the faith-based fight against the same proposed amendment. Faith Forward’s videos feature people of faith, many of them clergy, discussing how their faith has led them to support same-sex marriage.
I also follow MinnPost.com, the most independent and nonmainstream high-quality news service in Minnesota. Through a MinnPost tweet, I learned about a courageous priest from St. John’s University, my alma mater, who is speaking out in favor of gay marriage and against Minnesota’s marriage amendment. A link to a recent speech given by Father Bob Pierson can be found on Minnpost’s website.
I don’t own a smartphone, and I don’t obsess all day (most of the time) on social media, but I do check Twitter and Facebook regularly to keep informed and spread the word. While social media sites like these can be annoyingly consuming for some, like any useful tool the key is in how you choose to use them.
If you can tolerate the occasional T-Wolves tweet, I encourage you to follow me on Twitter because I also tweet about more important issues relating to peace and social justice. I’ll be tweeting soon about two upcoming film showings that Paths to Peace and the Albert Lea Human Rights Commission are sponsoring this fall. I’ll also be tweeting about information related to the upcoming election and how local voices can be heard in opposing the constitutional marriage amendment.
I might even tweet about the virtues of pancakes, which are actually superior to waffles in a number of ways. Follow me on Twitter : )
Jeremy Corey-Gruenes lives in Albert Lea with his wife and two young daughters. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @jemcorey.