Why I enjoy Twitter

So once again there seems to have been a blow up on Twitter in New Zealand in the last week. I am not totally sure what has caused it, but I think it stems from a post by Richie Hardcore on International Women’s Day. I know that Jess McAllen wrote about it on The Spinoff last week. Additionally there was discussion around the cartoon of Judith Collins that referenced the Kim Kardashian post that Richie Hardcore was also responding to. Since then there has been a number of skirmishes in the battle around how various Twitter users see how society treats woman. This has resulted in Danyl Mclauchlan leaving Twitter:


His leaving Twitter has caused a large amount of discussion as well. With sides being taken, and some less than calm exchanges occurring.


However, all of this serves as a prequel to the point of this blog post. The events of the last week or so have got me thinking about why I am on Twitter, and what keeps me here. Twitter is an evolving platform, not just the platform itself, but our own experiences of it, with new users having a very limited view that normally grows as we use it. It is what I have experienced during this growth that makes me appreciate Twitter. I may be outside of the norm, but my view of Twitter does not align that strongly with my own political views. Some of my favourite people to interact with on Twitter, come from very different backgrounds, and politics, to my own. But that is why I enjoy being here, because I get to interact with people I would be highly unlikely to come across in the real world. These people have taught me a huge amount, and I hope I have helped them learn something as well. They have taught me about things as diverse as cooking, feminism, farming, rugby league, and many other things around politics and society that I can’t put into single words.


However we have been seeing a number of issues on Twitter lately. Though I think these issues are imposed by both its own platform created limits, such as 140 characters, some are caused by  the limits of written English. Twitter can be useful as a place for both those with similar views to rally around the issues that matter to them, but also for those from differing points of view to come together and learn from each other. but, like any place of social gathering Twitter depends on people being willing and able to engage in meaningful dialogue, though this is not always going to happen. However I have learnt that Twitter has a lot more to offer me if I do my best to engage with others in a polite manner. Yes Twitters issues are big, but they are not unique to the platform, and the fact that they are causing friction should be making us think about how the platform is highlighting issues that exist else where, and not try to pin the blame for the issues on the platform. We need to stop blaming Twitter, or whatever other social media platform, for the issues that are occurring and realise that the issues are deeper seated, and we all need to do what we can to look more critically at our own, and others actions, but we also need to be kinder in how we articulate those criticisms. The power of the platform is immense, be that for good, or for bad.


I know this has been a bit of a random ramble, but I think Twitter offers to many positives for us to throw it all away! Lets all try and make NZ Twitter a nicer place, where we can all learn from each other! And have some fun and laughs at the same time!



Labour, TPPA Benefits and sources

As we all know, we woke up this morning to the news that the TPPA had been agreed in Atlanta, Georgia. It is well known that this deal does not enjoy bi-partisan support. However, for the intents of this post, that is all by the by. What I want to talk about is the graphic that Labour are using to call into question the benefits of the TPPA. They have posted the same graphic on both Facebook and Twitter:

labour dotsNew_Zealand_Labour_on_Twitter___National_promised_the_TPP_would_bring_great_economic_benefits__Really__It_will_be_worth_less_than_1__of_GDP_by_2030__http___t_co_KskCRTO6d0_

There are two, interrelated, issues that I have with the graphic. Firstly, there are no actual numbers telling you what the projected New Zealand GDP in 2030 is, nor what the projected gains, in $ terms, of the TPPA is. One user on Twitter has already called  their graphic into questions.


However, this is where the bigger issue I have with the graphic raises it’s head. Once again a political party has produced a graphic, with very specific numbers being used, and they have not cited the source of the figures or information. This means that it is impossible to know if the Labour graphic, or Goody Wuthrie’s graphic display the correct relationship.


A graphic they posted earlier today has a source for the quote they used:


So it isn’t like they never do it.


Now before anyone says I am just picking on Labour over this, I will also make the same comment about this graphic from John Key’s account this morning:


This isn’t the first time I have raised this issue either, if parties really want to lift the level of debate in New Zealand, a simple place they could start is by including the source of information in their graphics, or at least in the text that goes with them.



Goody Wuthrie has confirmed what his redo of the Labour graphic shows.


Absence of members, social media and Privileges

Early last year, before the election, there were a number of stories in the media about MPs use of social media in and around the house. This resulted in the Privileges Committee announcing a review of social media use in Parliament.  The main driver behind the discussion was the use of social media by opposition parties to attack the speaker. However, the wider debate was concerned with the question of do Speakers Rulings and Standing Orders apply to the use of social media by MPs.


Well it looks like there are still questions around that. It isn’t clear if Privileges has reported back yet, but MPs are still doing things on social media that I suspect are in breach, or very close to being in breach, of certain standing orders.


Firstly, lets take a look at Standing Orders. (p. 27)

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Young Nats, Greens and the Rugby World Cup

Young Nats Facebook page

Earlier today the Greens objected to David Seymour introducing legislation that would create a blanket allowance for pubs to open, and serve alcohol during early morning matches from the Rugby World Cup this year.


Needless to say, there are those who are trying to make political gain out of this. One of the first that I have come across, at least from part of a political party, is the Young Nats. Around 6:30pm they posted the following graphic: Young Nats Facebook page


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Mass Media vs Social Media: A NZ case study

The following is a collaborative post between Lamia Imam and myself.


First we want to start this post off by saying that neither one of us are experts on the history of blackface. Both of us understand that it has a history deeply rooted in racism and it continues to be strongly entwined with modern day racism. Having said that, today’s blog post is not directly related to Art Green’s use of black face, but the reaction to on social media, and the established media’s use, and reporting of, that reaction. However, the “back face” stories are important to this post. So let us start there.


The New Zealand Herald and Stuff are both reporting that Art Green, of Bachelor quasi-fame, wore “black face” at Colin Mathura-Jeffree’s recent birthday party in Auckland. Both news outlets have picked this story up because social media has reacted to it. Both of the stories run along the lines of Art Green and Matilda did X at Colin’s party, Matilda posted it social media, social media reacted in Y way, passing mention racial element designed to minimise that aspect “Blackface is frowned upon by many as cultural appropriation which can be seen as racist.” or ” The practice is widely condemned as racist.”, story ends. I want to focus on the “social media reacted in Y way” element of the story. The New Zealand Herald even took the extra step of including a quote from the President of the New Zealand Indian Central Association saying they did not think it was racist, without mentioning how Colin Mathura-Jeffree’s standing in the Indian community might impact on what the President had to say. .


For a while now we have observed the media’s use of social media as a way to obtain easy to write stories that no doubt generate large amounts of traffic. Today’s story is just another example of it.


In the majority of cases when newspapers and broadcast media focus on social media’s reaction to something, it is focused on how Twitter reacts. This is related to the way that Twitter works as a platform, and how, by default, it is an open platform. So it provides fertile ground for the mass media to pick up on reaction. However, it also allows the media to cut corners.. They are able to hand pick 3-5 reactions from Twitter that fit their story, embed those, and move on. And in this case they are also able to bypass having to explain the history, and can simply report that certain people are calling it racist. By leaving out even a brief historical explanation of the racist meaning behind black face they are able to subtly suggest that those on Twitter reacting negatively to it are over reacting, and being melodramatic. This is reinforced when they carry an unscientific poll of their readers that produces the following result:

mass media

Stuff unscientific poll


Rather than using the story as a chance to explain to readers some of the historical context behind the meaning of blackface and how it is racist, the media use it as a chance to cast those with an understanding of the historical meaning as out of touch. Instead of trying to enlighten their readers, they use it to cast those trying to change society, and be its conscience, in a light that enables those people to be discounted in the future as being out of touch with society.


Now for this particular story that may not seem that important, but if it is done subtly enough, and often enough, with comparatively low level stories such as this, it means that when it comes to important stories, such as Labour’s use of house sale data, and the way they analysed that data, those same voices, and their accusations of racism, are more likely to be discounted by readers.


This method can be seen not just in stories like this, but also Patrick Gower’s use of the term Twitterarti to describe an ill-defined collection of Twitter users, who he feels are out of touch with what he sees as the general public:

mass media



When Eleanor Catton dared to criticize the Government, One New chose to report it by saying – “Her comments have been met with mixed reactions on Twitter.” The nature of Twitter means that users are limited to 140 characters and nuance is often left at the door. Tweets can easily be taken out of context and the broader discussions that happen with multiple users on multiple threads can be easily missed. We understand that Journalists have strict deadlines but while Twitter users can enjoy discussions among each other and have an educational experience, mass media’s of depiction serves no purpose other than to get folks to click. There is no doubt that social media has been a disruptive force in the media landscape. Non-journalists are often “reporting” from the ground when there is breaking news, getting there faster than news cameras. Influencers on social media often have a symbiotic and cordial relationship with individual journalists but that can get lost in editorial decision-making.



Prime Minister John Key himself said “My view of social media is that there’s a lot of trolls and bottom feeders on that and in the end they get in people’s head.” As Prime Minister, he probably gets quite a bit of abuse from Twitter users, but discussions that run contrary to the popular narrative are not necessarily “bottom feeding”. Twitter gives regular people the unique opportunity to voice opinions, question accepted beliefs and even affect change. In the United States, for example, social media, particularly Twitter, has been seen as a driving force behind the national conversation that is happening about police brutality against the black community and media’s representation of that brutality. Over the weekend, Paul Little blamed social media’s liberal bigots for Paul Henry’s show experiencing low ratings. In an astounding paradox, social media users are to blame but simultaneously have irrelevant opinions that are used to be mocked by the established media.


Now we are not trying to suggest that those on Twitter are representative of the wider population, we know this is not true. But there are a large number of people on Twitter, some mentioned in these stories today, who are extremely smart people, who are able to call people out on their actions, or statements, and who are able to provide useful insights into issues that face New Zealand. However, the actions of the media in today’s case, and others, should be questioned in terms of the way they use social media to portray reaction to events, as well as how they portray those reacting. Is there more to the media’s actions than just click bait stories, are these stories part of a wider ploy to minismise the unique chance to exercise a voice that Twitter provides?