Last week in a blog post heralding the formation of a Republican Congressional New Media Caucus, I asked whether conservatives, and republicans, were out-organizing the left and progressives on twitter and the social media sphere.
Turns out this question was not only on my mind. Over the past week I’ve read many extremely smart and insightful blog posts on this issue, and even found major institutional media players broaching the subject as well.
My post also led to some very smart conversation (on twitter, of course), including one with one of my mentors, who argued passionately that I was forgetting our own history. He argued, convincingly, that bloggers and the progressive netroots were one of the major reasons Democrats regained control of Congress, and that progressives are still, to this day, years ahead of our conservative counterparts in the “netroots” genre.
I don’t entirely disagree. Progressive bloggers made their mark on history in a major way over the past several years, and truly revolutionized political organizing and the power structure on the left of American politics. However, I tend to see a difference between blogs and social media- although there’s much overlap, there’s thousands upon thousands of people engaging on social media that may not be involved with or writing for blogs at the same level of engagement.
So I was filled with glee when about a week ago my tweetdeck p2 hashtag blew-up. Seemingly thousands of people were joining “TweetProgress,” a network for progressives on twitter.
At this point, TweetProgress seems to be a hub for progressives to weave their networks together more effectively, efficiently, and then amplify the message they’re working to get out (for organizing, influencing traditional media stories, etc).
Here’s what Tracy Viselli, one of the founders, had to say:
Of course, (it) isn’t just about numbers or sides, it’s about influence and some of the things you can do on Twitter- influence the media for instance. Drafting more progressives into an existing infrastructure will be the key to more successful actions and issue campaigns. Plans are in the motion to do just that so keep an eye out for more developments.
However, it is what Viselli says next that I truly agree with most:
The message I want everyone to come away with after reading this post is that conservatives may be using their hashtag more often than progressives but that doesnt mean they are out organizing progressives online. In fact, progressives still do a better job pushing issues through blogs and progressive advocacy groups are using Twitter in all kinds of innovative ways. Twitter is not the be all end all of online activism but it is an online platform progressives need to make sure we own in the very near future.
That last point is, to me, the most important. Twitter is a revolutionary platform, no doubt, but it’s just that: a platform. Does this mean progressives should ditch real-world off-line organizing? Hell no. Should we throw all our eggs into the elusive twitter basket? No way. But we need to find (better) ways to harness the energy and power of these platforms (twitter, facebook, ning, youtube, ustream, livestream, etc etc etc) into our existing work.
Is Tweetprogress a step in this direction? Perhaps. As of this writing over 3200 people have joined the network. Has anything come from it? Not that I can tell. Will something come from it? Maybe. Is this another example of herd mentality– joining up as you see your friends and follwers doing the same (as I did)— or is this really a meaningful way to organize ourselves in one centralized place to affect change?
Time will tell. Just as hashtags have become crucial in sharing information with like-minded people (and then having the opportunity to amplify that message through retweets), I can see TweetProgress acting as a community-of-sorts to network and build issue-based campaigns. This network can serve as a clearinghouse for progressives looking for ways to become more involved not just from their laptops and iphones, but in real-world organizing efforts.
I commend those who created TweetProgress for recognizing the need for progress in online organizing efforts, but now it’s up to all of us to utilize and build-upon that concept to affect the real-world change we wish to see.