Millennials and Generation Z have taken to Twitter by storm, propelling the social media platform into a hub of 280-character memes, opinions and news articles.
Perhaps most interestingly is the website’s ability to facilitate connections through replies, follows and likes. While there are plenty of avenues for outdated memes, satire or dad jokes on the website — Twitter also has its own specific cultural dynamic within the Willamette student body.
Ericka Bryan, (’21), noted, “It’s more than just talking to your communities and friends.” Bryan said, “I can come to the [Center for Equity and Empowerment] and vent… but having it be in a much more visible place, that greater Willamette can see is exciting and interesting.”
Bryan’s timeline has dogs (via a Twitter group chat specifically for dog photos), news and friends. She explained that her timeline’s coverage of “current events, specifically from queer people [and] people of color,” offers her daily feed “more of an ‘in the community’ perspective.”
Julian (’19) pointed out how Twitter has fostered social connections in their life. Recently, Julian made their profile public after listening to an indie rock group named boygenius.
Julian said, “A ton of folks, people [who] I didn’t know started popping up on my Twitter” because of their shared interest in the band. Additionally, Julian thinks of Twitter as “probably the primary source of my news.”
However, after referencing the anonymity of the platform and its possibility for misinformation, Julian notes, “I’m not just going to believe everything that I see…it’s more like having a tailored platform to get [the kind of news I look for].”
The social media platform transcends memes or opinions; it has a presence as a political and cultural space too.
Senior Nell Crittenden (she/her, they/them) uses Twitter in relation to their identity. She stated, “everything I do on Twitter is directly related to the many identities that I hold, whether it be racial, cultural, social [or] political.”
Commenting on Willamette’s Twitter culture in particular, Crittenden noted, “At Willamette, clique culture is real. We interact with the same couple of people every single day, and we solidify our circles.” But on Twitter, Crittenden finds there to be “a certain connection that exists between students” who use Twitter together, even if they do not interact in person.
On top of using Twitter for its meme culture and Vines, Crittenden values Twitter for the opportunity to share her voice. Crittenden said, “I am a fat, Black, queer womxn… My voice is not always deemed as credible in person. It can be deemed as threatening, illegitimate, unnecessary or superfluous.” Still, Crittenden pointed to an important cultural phenomenon within Willamette’s student body.
“On Twitter, you’re not just interacting with the people that you see every day,” Crittenden said, “you’re interacting with the entirety of the Willamette community.” Twitter is an opportunity for thoughts and information to contribute to a group consciousness.
“There is a collective consciousness here: that we value social justice, marginalized people’s experiences and the essence of learning,” said Crittenden. Crittenden uses Twitter as an opportunity to “solidify that there is a way we think here [at Willamette],” away from personal beliefs.
Twitter is an underlying thread amongst the Willamette student body, but each person’s approach to the website reflects certain elements of their own identity and respective spheres on campus. Like Julian stated, “It’s become something really particular in this generation and in this time.” Twitter does not just operate independently online but has real, tangible and political effects on Willamette’s campus. Its social significance should not go unnoticed.