A Writer’s View: Why I Need Twitter

Yesterday I had a piece published at Al Jazeera that I’m pretty proud of. I found dozens of academic job ads that discriminate against people with disabilities, in many cases illegally, and published on it. It’s as close to straight revealing reporting as I come, taking something boring (boilerplate HR clauses) and demonstrating their social impact. It got a solid, non-viral, audience, and I know it reached people at the Departments of Justice and Labor, EEOC, the White House, and leaders throughout the disability community … because I called or emailed them. I’m still working on academic leaders.

I have no access to Al Jazeera America numbers, but I know that Facebook refers readers basically as much as the entire rest of the internet. I assume that’s true for AJAM, so I assume that at least half of the readers came from Facebook.

But of the thousands of people who read it thanks to Facebook, I only see the people inside my networks already. When people come upon it via Twitter, I see them. I have a search window up tracking tweets of my piece. I can follow the conversation around it and join in as appropriate. I met dozens of new people yesterday. I followed some, some followed me, others of us just chatted. It’s a place that has been designed to make connections, even as its volume comes nowhere near to matching Facebook’s.

I don’t know if the algorithmic timeline interferes with this function. I do know that if Twitter becomes a less vibrant space, or only makes popular tweets visible, we all lose. I lose because my tweets don’t find new audiences, but I also lose because I don’t find new people.

And then there’s livetweeting in the post-chronological timeline. That’s a separate issue.

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