The power of a tweet

Today is the 23rd annual Arts Advocacy Day. Typically it’s a day for arts advocates to petition their political representatives for increased funding for arts and arts education. Some people show up in person at their senators’ offices, others send e-mails and letters, and some people pick up the phone. Still others will journey to Capitol Hill to attend a conference on the arts to hear talks by actors Jeff Daniels and Kyle MacLachlan.

And this year, many people will simply “tweet.”

Arts advocates are hoping so many people will post the word “#arts” in their twitter feed, that it will show up as a “trending topic” (i.e. something that has drawn significant attention). The idea is that by making the trending topic list on Twitter, the “#arts” will gain even wider exposure. Arts advocates have even scripted it for you: “Tweet for the #arts today! It’s National Arts Advocacy Day. http://www.TweetArtsDay.org”

But, I have to wonder, will it really make a difference?

For me, a twitter post is a lot like a lawn sign or a bumper sticker for a certain political candidate or party. It’s a way of declaring your affiliation, but it isn’t going to have a lot of influence over my vote unless it comes accompanied with a reasoned argument. And while I have been amazed at what people can communicate in 140 characters or less, I don’t know if that’s enough room for a nuanced debate.

Still more worrisome, I wonder if having the option to “tweet” will give some people a sense of satisfaction for having “done something” when they really haven’t done much of anything at all. “I don’t need to contact my Senator – I’ve already tweeted my support!”

I have no doubt that “#arts” will make the trending topic list on Twitter today. Those people who came up with the idea and created the TweetArtsDay.org website will be able to claim success. But just what will they have accomplished? I can’t say I’m sure.

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