Sunday, March 31, 2013

How Twitter changed my life!

I know, I know, some of you are already rolling your eyes at the title alone, but it's true. Bear with me here and let me explain. I started using twitter as @urbantangerine, as a way of sharing my photography. I followed photographers and I learned a lot. But then I noticed all the science and Psychology people there too. I was finding amazing articles, research and people. For a while my twitter became like some sort of split personality and I realised that I needed to seperate my two passions. I kept my @urbantangerine account, but decided I would use it only for photography. For my science/psychology side I created a new twitter account: @psycho_claire. This is where the magic happened.

I ticked away quietly, following some cool people, some of my heroes of Psychology and science.I was still getting the same cool research papers, contact with the same awesome researchers etc.I interacted with some and found that twitter gave me a space to be ME. I could use this new platform as a sounding block for my ideas and the 140 character limit forced me to be creative with clarity. I really had to THINK about how to say something, and in doing that I consolidated my knowledge.

But, then something really amazing happened. This last year, Twitter really did change my life.

I saw the birth of @Science_Grrl following *that* awful EU video "Science: It's a girl thing!" I followed them immediately. I watched as they went from creating a calendar to a powerful new voice encouraging girls to do science. I was gutted to not be able to attend their first AGM. But a fellow Science Grrl I know did. She returned enthused. I attended a meeting between 4 of us local to Preston, and we decided that we were going to form the Preston chapter of @Science_Grrl. We even have a meeting with the founder very soon. (The entry for this in my diary has a smiley face next to it, that's how excited I am by this!)

This on it's own is pretty amazing! I'm part of an initiative that wants to show that science is not a gendered subject. That it is fun, creative, and most of all INCLUSIVE.

But the story doesn't end here. You see, I then came across a colleague from a different school in my institution. There was some banter happening on Twitter over the NSS and who could get the most students to complete it. I joined in, that being the sort of person that I am. What began as banter quickly became something more, as this colleague and I shared our ideas and experiences. We had what is known as a "tweet-up" (don't blame me, I didn't create the name). At this meeting we enthused about our respective subjects, bounced around ideas for cross-disciplinary working, and how we could enrich our students experience. These are now all works in progress, as we bring together the people needed to achieve our goals. Also in this meeting, my colleague suggested I check out the discussion group she was part of on Twitter on a Wednesday evening.

At first I was hesitant, I'm from a different discipline and I wasn't sure if the discussion would be relevant, or if I would have anything useful to add. So I lurked around the #eswphd hashtag for a couple of weeks, watching the discussion. I cannot remember now what the first discussion I joined in with was about, but I know that I felt welcomed, and that I found I really did have stuff to say. Although we're not from the same subject backgrounds, as academics and PhD students we share similar experiences.  I've taken a lot from the #eswphd tag, new ideas, new friends, and another way of getting my voice heard. (Including this blog post, which is going to be hosted on the new eswphd website).

And then there is @TheWomen'sRoomUK. I was around for the birth of this campaign too. In reaction to terrible gender ratios of experts on BBC Radio 4 programmes (and now other media outlets, programmes etc) a group of vocal women began a database of female experts. Their aim was to provide a place where journalists and other media types could find female "experts". I supported this from the outset, and watched as their voice grew and more women signed up. But I didn't sign up myself, not for a long time. Mainly because I didn't think I was an expert in anything. Then @TheWomen'sRoomUK began to tweet about what  constitutes "expertise", and I realised that I do have this in a number of areas; not least of which my PhD research. So I signed up, I'm on there and if you're a journalist looking for someone to talk to, check out my profile and my expertise categories.

I began to follow more like-minded women on Twitter, through watching who interacted with the Women's Room account. I found other voices who were trying to be heard, and I think I've grown as a feminist because of it. I've realised that some things I may have been OK with, for other women are unacceptable (check out #everydaysexism if you want to see how sexism still thrives in our "forward thinking" society, caution if you're a feminist this could cause depression and/or rage).

Then, The Women's Room tweeted that they were looking for "guest tweeters". Women to tweet from the account for a couple of hours. With some trepidation I answered the call and volunteered. When the time came on Good Friday for me to take over the account I was terrified. Suddenly I would be talking to thousands of people, not my safe little on-line world. Could I do this justice? Did I really have anything to say? Would people really be interested in my thoughts and opinions? Who the hell was I to be talking to all those people? All of this was going through my mind as I signed in to the account... All I can say is the experience was AMAZING! People joined in with discussions, they were interested in what I had to say, and having a platform to discuss my ideas with so many people was awesome.

So what? Right? Who cares? I got to do some cool stuff, got involved in some cool initiatives and got to chat with a bunch of people I don't know. How is this "life-changing"?

Let me tell you how....

I've always had stuff to say, had an opinion, enjoyed debate and mostly wanted to DO something about all the things I see wrong with the world. I have 3 main passions in my life: Science, Equality and photography. My @urbantangerine account covers the photography, it works fine for me. What my @Psycho_Claire account has done is allowed me to champion my two other passions. It's given me a platform for my public engagement with Science work, it's hooked me up with other people who are trying to do this too. It's let me engage in debate about Equality and what that means for us in the UK now, and for women the world over. It's given me new ways of working, thinking, experiencing. Suddenly, I can DO. All that energy, all that potential finally has an outlet.

You may still think I'm talking rubbish. You may still think that I'm some sort of Twitter loving weirdo. But let me tell you, as a girl who was bullied, who was told her voice wasn't worth hearing, who was made small and scared and shy - Twitter is amazing!

No comments:

Post a Comment