The Voice by Shel Silverstein
There is a voice inside of you,
That whispers all day long,
“I feel that this is right for me, I know that this is wrong.”
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What’s right for you– just listen to
The voice that speaks inside.
I’m finding that with age, it is easier for the outside voice to echo that voice that speaks inside. Like most people I imagine, I haven’t been bold enough to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth about my own life and “what I really feel” about everything. Thus, I linger somewhere between the public and the private, which made the past week so appealing. For seven days, I was The Voice of Ireland. No, really. On Twitter no less. And, here’s how it works.
Each week, the official @Ireland Twitter account rotates with a new voice introduced to the almost 20,000 Twitter users who follow it. Inspired by the Swedes, ‘rotation curation’ of the @Ireland account began in March 2012 and, as of this week, has been curated by 100 Twitter users. Based on the simple notion that one lone voice cannot represent a country, @Ireland helps connect the global Irish community through the widely varying voices of those who look after it, one Tweet at a time. I was delighted to be handed the reins of the @Ireland Twitter account last Sunday afternoon. There was no manual as such, but the rules were straightforward enough, with the best advice coming from Community Manager, Darragh O’Doyle:
I doubt I need to tell you but you know yourself, as we discussed – no trolling, nothing racist, demeaning or defamatory etc etc. Swearing within limits is fine, but I personally think it’s a case of if you can’t say something nice, say nothing. Not that you ever would of course! Feel free to bring up whatever topics and issues you like but be prepared that not everyone will like what you’re talking about. You won’t really be hearing from me on how you’re doing – the followers will let you know themselves. They’re very on the ball when it comes to what they find acceptable. I hope you get to meet some nice people.
And with that, I was off. I have to admit, I felt very important, ceremonial even, along the lines of Lady Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham. Mind you, not everyone was as impressed with me as I was with myself. I had to explain to people not only ‘rotation curation’ but that Twitter is actually, important. I digress, but only a little, to point out that before it was even a twinkle in the eye of Jack Dorsey, the simple Tweet featured in my little girl’s pre-school art. (Out of the mouths of babes . . . )
Regardless, my die-hard Facebook friends dismissed me as a narcissist, compelled to update the world with self-promotional trivia like what I ate for lunch. “But it’s not like that!” I protested. I mean, what other medium allows you to consume massive amounts of information and interact with the sources of that information at the same time? In real time? I far prefer Twitter to Facebook. Granted, the latter keeps me in touch with people I love and care about, but Twitter is what connects me with the issues I care about, with people who disagree or agree and share ideas and make me think. Twitter creates a forum for listening and learning from a global community, a perfect opportunity for countries to communicate with each other.
Why does that matter? Well, in these days of globalization and non-stop news, a country’s reputation can go to the dogs in an instant. Whether we’re talking about culture or politics, trade or tourism, the future of a country depends a great deal on how it is viewed by the outside world. So for those who get to take care of the @Ireland Twitter account, there’s a unique opportunity to create interest in and enthusiasm for the island and its people no matter where they live. Anyone can follow @Ireland on Twitter and strike up a conversation. And, truth be told, there were times last week when it felt a bit like being in the pub with 20,000 people.
At 11PM Irish time last Sunday, 3PM Mountain Standard Time, I began my stint from the second floor of the art museum downtown:
Incidentally, I checked, and even the Former Secretary of State has a Twitter account too, having signed up last September:
But back to the “Read My Pins” exhibit, where 200 of her brooches are on display. Each tells a story, none better than the serpent pin she wore while preparing to meet the Iraqis in the wake of Saddam Hussein’s refusal to accept UN inspections following the first Persian Gulf War. At the time, the government-controlled press had published a poem referring to Madeleine Albright as an “unparalleled serpent.” So what did she wear when she had to meet with Iraqi officials? She chose a small serpent pin, a tiny diamond hanging from the reptile’s mouth, and when the TV cameras zoomed in on it and the reporters asked why she had worn it, she responded with a smile that it was simply her way of sending a message. As they would say back home, “Good girl herself.”
With Madeleine Albright to help me get started, the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King the next day, (with a shout out to Bono who had played a role in campaigning for the MLK holiday in Arizona), and so many places in the grip of the Polar vortex, there was much to Tweet about. People from Ireland and all over the globe waxed philosophical, political, and personal. We swapped weather updates, weekend plans, bad jokes, recipes, and pictures of local scenery. There were disagreements about immigration law in Arizona and the recent flack in Northern Ireland over Newtownabbey Borough Council’s banning of the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged). There were questions about gun control in America, which Oscar nominated movie everyone should see, and what was the best concert in Ireland in the past 30 years. (For my money, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band when they made their Irish debut at Slane Castle in 1985 – a summer afternoon that will forever shimmer for those of us who attended.)
But most of all, there was the kindness of strangers, sorry for my trouble, who sent comfort and condolences, bringing me the brightest week since November 15th when the clocks stopped at 1:10PM even as the world kept turning. To all the kind strangers in this virtual home away from home, I am forever in your debt.
If you are interested in being the voice of @Ireland for a week, you can apply or nominate someone you believe could well represent Ireland by emailing Ireland@IrishCentral.com