Twitter Can be an Empathy Machine

Update July 2023: This post was written in 2021. Since then, I have changed my views on Twitter and deleted all of the data in my account. I haven’t edited this post, but I would see it as more of a way to use Mastodon or other social media, not Twitter specifically.

I don’t tweet much, so my Twitter experience is highly dependent on how I manage who I follow, block, and mute. I realized a few years ago that by tightly controlling this, I could make Twitter into any experience I wanted.

I decided that the best way to use it for me was to give me access to voices I wouldn’t normally hear from. So (aside from people I know in real life), I almost exclusively follow programmers from groups that are underrepresented in tech.

In my feed, since they are way overrepresented, I am constantly exposed to the world as they experience it, and it helps me develop empathy. I can feel my attitudes and default reaction changing in ways it never would have if I only interacted with people I know.

Another important part of how I use it is that I mostly listen. If the topic is tech and I can answer a question or add value, I do. But I don’t chime in on topics where I should be learning, and where my instincts are probably not great.

I can also add value by amplifying their great work. Again, by making my default overwhelmingly underrepresented programmers, it’s just more likely I will be exposed to their work instead of it getting buried in my feed.