"Aren't you just preaching to the converted on social media?"
And here's why.
We talk about this idea of 'preaching to the converted' as though it is just people who already know the same stuff and already believe the same things just sitting around congratulating each other on being cleverer than the heathenistic 'unconverted'.
It does look like that now and then, especially so if you're looking at the behaviours of groups you aren't a member of, but I think it is also much more than that.
Amongst the fellow 'converts' who I follow and who follow me on Twitter, we don't really believe all the same things, and we certainly don't know all the same stuff.
What we are all 'converts' to though, is the idea that much of what we hear from govt and media isn't even close to true, and that racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and Islamaphobia, amongst other things, are huge issues.
That still leaves quite a lot of wiggle room, but it gives us a starting point.
It gives us some shared understandings, some shared aspirations, some shared expectations, some basic social guidelines for our dialogues to exist within. As is the same with any community, no matter how loosely formed it may be.
While twitter is a place where you can say pretty much anything about whatever or whoever you want, that does not mean it is also a place where people need to respond to you, or are obligated in any way to explain anything to you. Much like in real life, we get to choose who we interact with outside of our places of employment. We get to choose who we give our energy to, when, and for what purpose.
I'm not interested in convincing people that racism exists. That should be a given, and needs to be a given for me to choose to freely spend my time and energy engaging in conversation with people.
I'm not interested in proving that eating halal won't turn you into a werewolf, or that Aboriginal people aren't really a type of sentient cactus, or whatever ludicrously impossible thing it is that we are told to be scared of on any given day.
Someone needs to explain these things to people though, and kudos to those who do. I have worked in education with all ages of learners and I have been forced, as a professional requirement, to patiently explain these topics in painstaking detail to children and adults alike. On Twitter though, I am under no such obligation. I can choose how I spend my time, and with whom.
But for the most part I'd rather talk to the people who get the gist but who, like me, are lacking all of the details and are trying to work out what is really going on, and what we can acually do about it. That feels like a better use of my time, and a more rewarding experience, than what all too often reveals itself to be little more than what is referred to as 'feeding the trolls'.
Sometimes I do engage with trolls online, but it almost always for the benefit of those people who are reading along at home or simply because I am in a bad mood and feel like arguing with someone. It takes a lot of energy though... because that is exactly what trolls feed on.
While hanging out, sharing info, and generally trying to work out stuff, and find things that we can do that have value in our own lives and in each others, we have created and grown @IndigenousX to almost 20,000 followers, we have had a variety of influences on media reporting (not the least of which has been getting IndX hosts profiled each week in the Guardian), and we have raised over $150,000 dollars for others via StartSomeGood.
Not world shattering stuff, but not bad form either.
We've probably helped 'convert' a few peeps too, but I doubt it would be that many... And if we have, I would consider it a by product more than anything else.
It might be worth coming up with a less loaded and more accurate term than 'preaching to the converted' though... something that sits at the crossroads of 'hanging out with random kindred peeps', 'sharing a laugh and a few stories', and 'trying to find stuff worth talking about, and stuff worth doing' maybe?