Thursday 26th March 2015. NICVA, Duncairn Gardens, Belfast. Part One of the Great Annual Tweet Up. A joint event organised by NICVA and Slugger O’Toole.
I am never very sure what NICVA is. On Thursday, I arrived about forty minutes early and had plenty of opportunity to find out. There were brochures in the Reception area but I was sitting down and I couldnt be arsed picking up a brochure. They operate from a new building in a business park in Duncairn Gardens in North Belfast. As is often the case with business parks and shopping malls and road building….the landscaping provides a “fire break” between the two tribes in Norn Iron. So NICVA is on the peace line between the nationalist “New Lodge” and loyalist “Tigers Bay”.
NICVA is one of those organisations …cynics would say….which seems lavishly funded to merely exist rather than actually DO anything.
It is “cross-community” and in Norn Iron terms exempt from criticism. Its supporters would say that the Norn Iron Council for Voluntary Associations is an umbrella organisation for the multitude of voluntary organisations which exist here. Indeed its main purpose seems to be to provide “training” for voluntary groups.
It is a normal part of the political discourse here…especially on the political “right” to say that the public sector…Health, Education, Civil Service etc is “bloated” but few criticise the voluntary sector as “bloated”. Indeed Community activism isone of those things which cannot be criticised. Especially if the “cross-community” tag is used.
Voluntary Organisations includes charities and campaign groups. As long as NICVA is providing support and training, these groups know where their bread is buttered. Because these groups are diverse and range in size, it is often the case that the spokespersons for the bigger and better organised groups become personalities…”players”….in their own right. The extent to which they are becoming “players” on behalf of the groups they represent or have one eye on a bigger and better career is possibly problematic.
NICVA provides the platform to “network”. Some “players” use the opportunity rather well. Networking is a “big fish, small fish” type of thing. The small fish swim near the big fish hoping to benefit. Sometimes the big fish eat the small fish.
So Thursday was all about Networking. NICVA-Slugger O’Toole hosting a discussion on Social Media…specifically the use of Twitter to get your message across.
The afternoon was hosted by Mark Mallet of Ulster Television. It was a one hour panel discussion. I cant recall the names of the panelists. Four or five “success” stories. people who had successfully used Twitter to campaign or whatever. I could not warm to them. The overall impression was that these had recently been “small fish” who had succeeded to the extent of swimming with “bigger fish”. Being on the panel was the confirmation of their success. Not so very different from “born again Christians” telling a tele-evangelist of the blessings GOD had bestowed on them.
The audience were provided with a “hashtag” and invited to “tweet”. Those audience members, who tweeted were rewarded with seeing their tweet published on a giant screen in the room. Few of Norn Iron’s Golden Halo in attendance. Patrick Corrigan, the Amnesty Man was there. He tweeted and even asked an old fashioned question of the panel. Good to see Mr Corrigan taking a break from carrying “Je Suis…..” placards at Belfast City Hall.
Quintin Oliver was unable to attend but generously took time to “tweet” his best wishes from an even more important event.
A curiousity was a tweet from a non-entity called “Sean-Korb” (see pic above) who stated that he had one follower on Twitter and thought this was below average. This made the audience laugh and Mr Mallett ran about the room trying to locate “Sean” before deciding that Sean probably wasnt in the room. Audience members suggested that “Sean” should probably have a pic on his profile. Audience members were encouraged to add him.. “Sean” tweeted that he was in the room and would not be putting up a pic.
It dawned late on the audience that “Sean” was in fact….a wind up merchant, who was way off message. I encourage you not to speculate on Seans identity.
The workshops….one conducted by Brian O’Neill from Slugger. Actually quite good …an overview of how to use your website to campaign. And a reminder that the voluntary sector does good work. The lady who runs a new “pet charity” finding good homes for cats and dogs, whose owners have terminal illness…good luck to her.
And a second workshop on the mechanics of Twitter. I have THREE dormant Twitter accounts. The word count on this post is…779…and will be just over 800, when I finish it. I am not the kinda person who can limit himself to 140 characters in a “tweet”.
Tweets encourage one-liners. As “Sean_Korb” put it “Facebook is for my Friends….Twitter is for my Enemies”.
It is “Big Fish” and “Small Fish”. Success on Twitter is having people follow YOU. It is not about following other people.
Thus….Quintin Oliver who describes himself as a “lobbyist, activist and change agent” has almost 4,000 followers but only 1,600 people are followed by Quintin Oliver. Quintin is a success.
Eamonn Mallie is followed by 24,000 people and follows 4,000. He is a success.
Mick Fealty is followed by 9,000 and follows 1,000. Success.
Dr Who….David McCann is followed by 3,000 and follows 1,000.
I would be surprised if they dont follow each other. They will probably tell you that Twitter is democratic and egalitarian but they dont seem to value other peoples opinions (the Small Fish) ass much as the Small Fish value their opinions. It’s just too cosy for me.
I have three dormant Twitter accounts. I only ever used it to promote this Blog. And I think the most followers, I ever had on any account was 130. I just dont like Twitter. I dont like ….compromising my opinions ….and I dont like compromising myself.
There are two types of people in Norn Iron. The “Moved and Shaken” and the “Movers and Shakers”. Selling your soul for a “re-tweet”, “like”, “link” or “share” by the Important or Self-Important just isnt worth it.