In case you haven’t found it already, the Skydancer project now has its very own Twitter account @RSPB_Skydancer. You probably know this already. In fact, you probably linked to this blog directly from there.
We deliberated long and hard over whether or not to go the Twitter route – to tweet, or not to tweet? It’s something I’d so far avoided in my personal life but with social media playing a bigger and bigger role in the every day, I was persuaded to tentatively set up my own account and see what all the fuss was about. You can follow me if you like, I don’t post much. The mundanities of my life, while interesting to me, are hardly worth broadcasting to the public at large.
That said, I confess to being bowled over by the breadth of information suddenly available at my fingertips. I find it amazing that Twitter, a word once used to mean inane and trivial chatter (and ok, there’s still plenty of that on there), has also rapidly become an incredible forum for knowledge sharing and awareness-raising, a means of generating instant debate and discussion, and a starting point for a whole new kind of activism that to my mind, had never previously existed.
Take what happened a few days ago for example. When the news broke last Friday that hen harriers had hit rock-bottom in England this year without a single successful nest, the issue received widespread national media attention. Twitter (or at least the little corner of it in which our project sits) just about exploded.
News articles from national papers were tweeted and re-tweeted and as the word and feelings of disappointment and disbelief spread, a group of people were moved to action. Monday 12th August, the first day of the grouse shooting calendar, was spontaneously declared Hen Harrier Day, with tweeters everywhere encouraged to celebrate and raise awareness about this beautiful bird by posting tweets using the #henharrier. This was not (as I interpreted it at least) a move of aggression, but rather one of sadness for a beautiful part of our natural heritage that’s being lost, and a desire to raise awareness and show the world that there are people who care and that hen harriers matter.
The hashtag was quickly picked up by a number of prominent tweeters, including Mark Avery, Chris Packham and Simon King and by Tuesday it was estimated to have reached well over 588,000 people! It’s now Thursday and it is still being tweeted. As a (presumably) unintended side effect, the number of Skydancer followers just about doubled over the same period. If you are among the many that have just recently joined us, thank you and welcome.
By far and away the most remarkable result though has to be the amount of genuine discussion that “Hen Harrier Day” generated. Yes, there was a certain amount of the usual nonsense-mongering and mud-slinging, but at the core of it there was a surprising amount of honest, reasoned debate happening. I say “surprising” because I’ve always heard people say that Twitter is the absolute worst place to have an argument, but then maybe that’s it – people weren’t arguing (most of the time), they were discussing and debating. And overwhelmingly at the heart of it all, there was a real recognition from both sides of the urgent need to work together and find that common middle ground for the sake of hen harriers and the future of our uplands.
After all, in what other forum can you have RSPB, GWCT, SNH, Shooting Times and other such organisations side by side with individual members of both birding and shooting communities, all able to have their say, and all on completely equal footing? It’s been eye-opening to say the least and I hope there’s much more of it to come, and not just on Twitter.
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