I have been holding off on joining Twitter with the same zeal that many of us refused to get cell phones, or fax machines or VHS.
Yet despite my curmudgeonly reluctance, Facebook and Twitter won me over this month.
I was already becoming aware of their valuable contributions as lobbying tools. The Abbotsford rally gathered hundreds of people who didn’t know each other; the same happened with Hold Hands for Justice and with Enough, the West End’s rallies against homophobia and violence.
These were technological triumphs, yet even as they mobilized us I felt afraid. Many of us have too much information floating around about our private lives and it concerns me that our government — and everyone else — has unprecedented access to our lives.
Then came the Amazon debacle and I changed my mind.
When gay and lesbian bookstores started closing, our collective intellectual landscape changed. Many of us knew that our stories would eventually be relegated to a single shelf in a Costco-sized book conglomerate.
Seattle-based Amazon.com now claims it experienced a “glitch” and never meant to relegate queer books to the virtual bottom shelf by tagging them as having adult content.
Whether we believe that it was an accident or not is beside the point. They had to respond to the hundreds of thousands of outraged complaints from queers all over the world. Gore Vidal, Jeanette Winterson and all of our other literary heroes can’t be tossed off their catalogues without us forming a big virtual collective.
When one of us gets an unpleasant scoop, protest is made in the form of an angry status update or tweet, then there are shared links to headlines and, before long, an entire community comes together. Amazon received an ocean of outraged letters from all over the world.
I still feel uneasy about the extent to which governments and corporations can track everything about us through our public social networks. But I need to drop my fears and remember that what Audre Lorde said is even more true these days: “Your silence will not protect you.”
These tools, even when they leave us feeling disconnected from our peers, are also tools of a revolution. We can stop corporations from banning queer books because there are enough of us who are connected to each other. Amazon learned a big lesson last week. I did, too.
So did every other non-twittering purist.
The times are a-changin’ so why not upload our photos, our politics, our connections to each other?
We showed that we could gather together during volatile times, that we can collectively send a message. We don’t have to be afraid of local bullies and we don’t have to be afraid of multinational corporations either.