In March we hosted a lunch with Twitter to launch a campaign encouraging more women to use the platform from a #PositionofStrength.
In the conversations that led this partnership to fruition I got to thinking about my experience with Twitter. At the risk of overstating things I honestly believe I have experienced the best and the worst of it.
I have had the experience of being “trolled”. The first time it happened trolling wasn’t even in my vernacular. I was a reporter with BRW and covered the legal profession at the time. In 2009, a few months after joining Twitter, I had the unpleasant experience of having a selection of my feed posted on an anonymous website called Firm Spy which reported from the trenches of law and accounting firms.
They took issue with a story I had written about redundancies that were taking place in a law firm. The first half of the headline read: From Twitter to Shitter and the second part was something about Georgina Dent being a self-appointed reporter at BRW. The gist of the piece was essentially “look how dumb and silly this girl is”. A selection of Tweets were published and without any context I suppose they did make me look a bit dumb and silly.
In some tweets I was sharing articles from BRW, in others I was asking followers whether they’d be interested in talking to BRW about various topics and there was one in which I shared my deep love for the David Jones food hall. (An observation I stand by. Have you tasted their yoghurt?)
I was quite horrified and humiliated by the piece. At the time I was a month away from moving to the UK and the idea that a Google search by any future employer could generate this gem filled me with dread and unease. After various attempts at contact, the piece was eventually taken down. I’d be lying if I said my confidence didn’t suffer.
Various factors then contributed to my taking an extended break from Twitter; moving to England, falling pregnant and finding myself unemployed for a period.
A year or so later when I started a blog I dipped my toe back into Twitter. I started to share my posts and soon enough found myself really enjoying participating in various conversations. By the time I returned to Australia and BRW I had thrown myself back into the platform with gusto.
It was when I was on maternity leave with my second daughter that I experienced the best, most tangible benefit, of Twitter; I got this job. Being home with a toddler and a tiny baby contributes to some irrational but inevitable erosion in confidence for many women. For me it certainly did. And yet there I was on the couch one evening, when I got a private message on Twitter from Marina Go asking if I’d meet her to talk about a job opportunity. It felt like a gift (from a parallel universe) and it still does.
I had never met Marina in person; we had simply engaged on Twitter, so it is true that Twitter helped me land this job.
Like many other people I have used Twitter to build relationships, to keep myself updated, to get involved in conversations and to use my own voice to start and continue conversations that matter to me. There is a downside to this and it comes in the form of feedback that ranges from silly to sinister.
But the upside is quite extraordinary. For me, the benefit of having a network of followers and supporters who believe in the things I do, and being exposed to people like this around the world, is galvanising and not just on the platform itself. Being vocal about gender equality, for example, does not always make me popular. Yet that is palatable to me, in no small part, because I see and recognise that I am not alone in seeking that.
My Twitter feed is not just an echo chamber. There is plenty of room and scope for disagreement and discussion but it reminds me every day that there are people out there like me. It reminds me that it’s ok to have a voice and to use it.
Sitting at the lunch in March listening to women like Jessica Rowe, Lisa Annese, Christine Forster, Layne Beachley, Jane Burns, Sandra Sully, Kristine Kenearly, Jaelea Skehan and Amelia Marshall talk about their experiences, I realised that this is the universal benefit of Twitter.
Each of the women around the table that day use Twitter in a way that helps them. In facing the isolating of being home with a baby, in building a community receptive to research about mental health, in finding a tribe of like-minded people, in creating a community for the work they do.
Social media quite seriously gives women a platform from which to advance their careers, build their networks and use their voices without needing traditional channels which have historically excluded them. Having experienced some of the worst I can still say without hesitation that the upside of Twitter outweighs the bad. Twenty to one.
If you want to learn more about finding your own voice on Twitter and using it from a position of strength join us for a workshop and a cocktail event in Sydney on May 20th.