Will you sign my yearbook?
There are two things I miss about my high school: the color-coded hallways and the courtyard.
Our school had three floors and on every floor, we referred to the different sections by the colors of the lockers.
“Let’s meet in the orange hall.”
“Oh, they hang out in the green hall downstairs.”
The theater and band kids would eat lunch on the first floor, by the group of seniors I hung out with during my freshman year. Sometimes I’d cut through the courtyard to go see my freshman friends in the green hall. Then there were the classrooms where kids either met for clubs or just to hang out with their favorite teacher at lunch.
I could look out into the courtyard to see different clusters out there, too. I could walk around the hallways to say hi to different friends, or pop in to say hit to my teachers. When I was a junior, I could leave campus for lunch and somehow we’d still all end up bringing our food back to whatever hallways we were hanging out. My friends had migrated to the orange hall, split between the first and third floors, so sometimes I’d go up and down the stairs 2-3 times during the lunch hour.
I could just observe and take in the energy of the people around me. As an outsider, it helped me find my people.
I was never popular, but I had friends in the popular groups, so I could still walk by them to say hi on my way to my destination.
As I’ve been thinking about the last 15 years on Twitter, this is the best way I can find to explain why I love it: Twitter is the courtyard and the color-coded hallways surrounding it.
When I talk about Twitter, I always start the conversation by mentioning how I pivoted my entire career there. It was more than that. I grew up and found my voice on Twitter. It was always a place to belong, even if I was just walking through the hallways listening to the snippets of conversations.
I could talk to the popular kids (yes, I mean celebrities) as I walked by without feeling like an idiot or worrying about someone making fun of me.
I could walk by the theater kids to talk about the shows and movies we’re all watching. I could swing by the band hall to talk about music. All while talking to my friend about the weird dream I had the other night.
During major events, Twitter turned into the school assembly. We all crammed into the auditorium to watch what was happening and have our side conversations about it.
But more importantly, Twitter has become a critical tool for activists, for the marginalized, for oppressed, for the disabled. Others have articulated this better:
- The public-health power of humor on Black Twitter
- “Black Twitter has served as the racial conscience of social media. It praises us for our merits, drags us for our sins, and somehow gives us reprieve from the cesspool of lying, trolling, and abuse that can happen in the digital world. So the question is not offered out of paranoia, but to explore how forces like Black Twitter shape our lives in panic settings: They educate, entertain, and clarify in times of collective bemusement.”
- Changes at Twitter may put activists and protesters at risk, say experts
- “So we just don’t know one day to the next because you have one person effectively determining the operations of a major component of our global public square.”
- Twitter’s potential collapse could wipe out vast records of recent human history
- ““If Twitter was to ‘go in the morning’, let’s say, all of this—all of the firsthand evidence of atrocities or potential war crimes, and all of this potential evidence—would simply disappear,” says Ciaran O’Connor, senior analyst at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a global think tank. Information gathered using open-source intelligence, known as OSINT, has been used to support prosecutions for war crimes and acts as a record of events long after the human memory fades.”
- Twitter’s real value
- What started as a space for banalities quickly evolved into a space for connection and political organizing. The Arab Spring was not the only social movement to use sharing platforms to raise international awareness of their cause. Movements like #BlackLivesMatter in the United States, #BringBackOurGirls in Nigeria, and #MyDressMyChoice in Kenya used Twitter to bring their local messages to the world. In Kenya and Senegal, groups used Twitter to crowdsource parallel vote tallying and independent election monitoring, improving election outcomes.
- ‘It’s given a voice to many’: chaos at Twitter sparks real fears for free speech in south-east Asia
- “Social media has been crucial to pro-democracy protests across the region, from Myanmar to the Milk Tea Alliance in Thailand and Hong Kong”
- If You Want to Understand How Dangerous Elon Musk Is, Look Outside America
- “Long suppressed groups found their voices and social media-driven revolutions began to unfold. Movements against corruption gained steam and brought real change. Outrage over a horrific gang rape in Delhi built a movement to fight an epidemic of sexual violence.”
- One giant slow-motion fail whale
- It, also, crucially, acted as an important lifeline for both content creators in the Global South, activists around the world, and diasporic minority communities such as Black Twitter, which, at one point, was the majority of the users on the app. Also, it all happened so quickly over the last decade it’s hard to remember, but Twitter not only connected journalists across continents, but also freed a lot of reporters from the confines of an editor. This is not always a good thing, but it does mean that a lot of younger writers in more rigid journalism environments could get an idea out into the world without having to jump through the hoops of a traditional newsroom. This is doubly, if not triply true for women writers, writers of color, and queer writers. Twitter, for as much as it is maligned as a drama machine, was an app built by mass shootings, natural disasters, terror attacks, wars, and uprisings, as much as it was with memes and trends. And as Twitter suffers one giant slow-motion fail whale, all of this is at risk of being snuffed out.
Personally, as someone with family outside of the US, Twitter is where I could get real-time updates about events in my home country. I’ve been around long enough to not get attached to a single platform but honestly, 15 years and nothing else has come close. I’m a multi-passionate person with anxiety and depression. This space helped me find so many communities and build connections in ways that would’ve never been possible. Plus, who else will put up with the random shit I want to yell out into the abyss at 2 am on a Tuesday. Of course, there’s never been a shortage of ridiculous things in this space because it’s so diverse but we’re all just snarky trash pandas screaming out.
Sure, there are other platforms out there, but nothing will come close to what Twitter has done for me and for millions of people around the world.
I don’t know what will happen. I’m hoping that the platform somehow survives.
Either way, I’ll be walking around the hallways, signing yearbooks.
KIT, as the we used to say.
And duh, I’m signing with my glitter pen, because you know how I feel about anything ✨sparkling ✨.