Tech stalwart Anil Dash did something revolutionary with his Twitter feed in 2013: he only retweeted women for one year. (With the exception of Prince, but, I mean, it’s Prince and he is the international representative for THE LADIES, so I understand.)
Dash has been a fixture in the technology scene for ages now and, in an effort to be more thoughtful and positive about the messages he shared with his 487,000 followers, realized that not only was he overwhelmingly followed by men, but he also overwhelmingly retweeted men. As a guy who knew “how underrepresented women’s voices are in the areas I obsess over, such as technology and policy and culture,” he decided to act, he writes at Medium.
For his 2013 new year’s resolution Dash promised to only retweet women, with the exception of Prince chatting on Twitter through his band’s account, @3rdeyegirl. So what was the result?
More broadly, I found the only times I even had to think about it were very male-dominated conversations like the dialogue around an Apple gadget event. Even there, I’d always find women saying the same (or better!) things about the moment whose voices I could amplify instead of the usual suspects. And for the bigger Twitter moments I love, like award shows and cultural events, there are an infinite number of women’s voices to choose from.
One thing that has happened, and I’m not sure if it’s attributable to my change in retweet behavior, is that I’ve been in far more conversations with women, and especially with women of color, on Twitter in the past year. That’s led to me following more women, and has caused a radical shift in how I perceive my time on Twitter, even though its actual substance isn’t that different.
As Dash retweeted more and more women, their conversations began to rule his feed. When most of the tech industry's men were whining about a “horrible tech story,” Dash witnessed the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen or #NotYourAsianSidekick threads first hand. He’s happier about the time he spends on Twitter and finds himself listening to more conversations between women and, notably, women of color, than he ever had before. Dash also found that women’s priorities weren’t all about reproductive rights and recapping Scandal — though there was a lot of that — but women's conversations also branched into social justice issues like the Stop and Frisk debate in New York City.
I retweeted the @stopandfrisk account daily for weeks, and found that people who knew me in the tech world, who hadn’t been familiar with the issue, were suddenly bringing it up unprompted in meetings. I’d struggled with doing so at first (Stop and Frisk isn’t run by a woman, features a profile photo of Michael Bloomberg, and is an issue that primarily impacts men), but given that so many women care so deeply about the issue, it didn’t seem at all in contradiction with the spirit of my overall experiment in retweeting women.
Dash also shared that when he stopped retweeting fools who tried to shout him down and began “amplifying voices that were worth hearing,” that negative energy dissipated. He used his Twitter feed as a learning tool and that exercise made him a better and more well-informed person who doesn’t go around mansplaining things. Now, he effectively knows how to have a conversation where he might not have had the language or the wherewithal 365 days ago.
I love this. I love that Dash, who’s already a leader in his industry, who doesn’t really have to do anything other than keep on commenting and consulting and post vines of his adorable kid, made a positive change and grew from the experience. It may not become a trend, but hopefully it will inspire more people to use Twitter as a tool for learning.
Naturally, some of Dash's male followers have reacted stupidly, some have even said that he only followed women so he could "get laid." I doubt that, but NB to all the men out there: this following women and listening to them thing certainly isn't going to hurt a dude's chances.
Image via Twitter's @ohheygreat and @anildash.