I know there are plenty of people who will balk at the idea of social media as anything but toxic. But if that’s the case, why do we all spend so much time on it? Social media, I generally think, is what we make of it, the good and the bad. Though I mostly use Twitter to engage in NJ politics, there are a few non-political accounts that are a net positive in my day.
Alt Yellowstone National Park (@AltYelloNatPark)
Over the summer, I spent some time in Wyoming, hiking Grand Teton and Yellowstone. Returning to flat as an ironing board South Jersey after the majesty of the Tetons and Yellowstone was difficult, to say the least! It was also hard to pull myself away from Wyoming’s more temperate weather; in August, South Jersey is an ironing board we are all being steam pressed to death on.
The Jackson Hole airport is tiny, the kind of setup where you walk across the runaway over to the plane, feeling like The Beatles. Climbing the staircase to board, I had a chance to take one last look at all the breathtaking beauty I was leaving behind. Believe me, there were tears in my eyes! I was glad to discover @AltYelloNatPark shortly after that. The photos capture the scenes that make Yellowstone so amazing — the buffalo, the elk, the geysers, the hot springs, ravens, fields of flowers, the bacteria mats that sound gross but are actually gorgeous — all of it. I also appreciate the social critique (people behaving badly, standing too close to wildlife) and the politics (I never knew “rewild the west” was a thing but I’m all in!).
I generally think Twitter has been good for the visual arts. On this fast paced platform, works of visual art can really stand out and shine. They certainly do for me among my regularly scheduled din of political bickering and grandstanding. I love how diverse this account is in terms of the varied mediums it showcases. Women from across the world are highlighted in these tweets, working in all kinds of formats, with different materials. Photography, sculpture, fabric art, painting, print-making, jewelry, tattoos. It’s worth being on Twitter just to see what this account is going to share with the world everyday!
Once you start following this account, Twitter will help you get pulled into other interesting visual art accounts. I follow lots of art museum and gallery accounts. It is a very satisfying rabbit hole to go down. Seriously, do it. Don’t deprive yourself of the chance to look at amazing art each day when it is literally laid out for you, at your fingertips on Twitter.
Just as I’d contend that Twitter has been good for wide exposure of the visual arts, I’d say the same for poetry. Poetry lovers and Twitter users have a shared preference for an economy of words, of the pithy, tightly packed delivery of ideas. Twitter’s fast paced platform feels like a natural home for verse. I might scroll past a retweeted article, even on a topic I’m interested in, just reading someone’s tweeted take on it. But I read the screenshot of every poem that comes across my feed. I don’t know who did that first but it was absolute genius. So easy to like and retweet.
Poets.org is the account of the Academy of American Poets so it’s a pretty professionally curated offering of verse. I spent many years of my life in academia before I jumped from the ivory tower to land in politics and in academia, there is definitely a hierarchy of lit mags. I don’t necessarily subscribe to that hierarchical view though. A university English department, a couple friends hanging out in someone’s basement — I think great online lit mags can come from many places. I follow scores of them on Twitter. I aim to read a few pieces of creative nonfiction each week, a goal I only sometimes hit but I certainly consume more poetry on a daily basis than I ever have, mostly thanks to Twitter.
Liminal Spaces (@SpaceLiminalBot)
Make your Twitter less toxic and more trippy! The photos this account offers up are always intriguing, sometimes artsy, other times just odd. At its artsy moments, this account conjures up thoughts of Robert Frank’s The Americans, making me recall Frank’s talent for capturing haunting views of both public and private spaces that were evocative of an America in transition (Frank’s groundbreaking photography collection was published in the late 1950s, just before the Civil Rights movement).
Other times, the photos from this Twitter account make me think of Johnny Depp, staggering down a hotel hallway in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. For fellow seekers of psychedelic vibes, @70sscifi also has some interesting visual offerings.
Cats with Jobs (@CatWorkers)
Do I even need to tell you why you should follow this account? Because they’re cats! With jobs! And everyone knows cats are notoriously unproductive and refuse to follow orders. Make some time in your day to see some cats looking miffed and inconvenienced in various work spaces, often outfitted too. There are plenty of reminders that no, you cannot just quit your job and start your own business with your cat as your only employee. Cats Being Weird Little Guys (@weirdlilguys) is filled with similar antics. I’m sure there are plenty of dog equivalents to these accounts but I’m a cat person so you’ll have to find those yourself.
Power of Positivity (@LIVEpositivity)
Not long ago, a writer friend of mine taught a course focused specifically on gratitude journaling. The students did daily gratitude journaling and the course explored both via the students’ experiences as well as various studies on how gratitude journaling can result in improved physical and mental health outcomes.
Admittedly, I do not do daily gratitude journaling. I keep a journal but it’s full of complaining! But the brief aphorisms offered by this account do sometimes stop my scrolling or even if they do not, some of them certainly stay in my thoughts throughout the day. Tiny Buddha (@tinybuddha) is also worth a follow if you are a fan of short mindful reflections. If you like inspirational quotes and animal antics, check out Wholesome Memes (@WholesomeMeme) which I follow specifically so I have silly content to text to my 10 and 13 year old kids who both have phones, for better or worse, and only sometimes roll their eyes when I subject them to some ridiculousness.
That’s my current list for a satisfying Twitter experience. We are what we consume so make sure it’s art, nature, insight or inspiration you can take with you along the way!