The Many Channels of Me: How Twitter Has Helped me Grow, Learn and Support My Community

May 2015
As most of you know, I am a cycling advocate and love bicycles.  I am not fast nor do I race anymore, but I love everything about bicycles that allows us to be independent, healthy and see life a little slower.  Hearing a woodpecker as you ride through dense trees on Lucas Valley Road, or getting to soar along the road at China Camp while a bird soars right along with you... these are vivid moments of true bliss and being in tune with nature.  This past weekend, I rode in the Tour de Marin ride to support Marin County Bike Coalition. Prior to this, I volunteered at the Calpark Tunnel for Bike to Work Day. During both of these events, I photographed and shared my photos on Twitter from my accounts @sfbikegal and @cproppe .
Someone from the Bike Council asked me what it was I had... Do you have a blog?  "No", I said.  "It is just a Twitter account." Which brought me to realize that over the past year, I share more media on Twitter and Facebook than I really do by blog.  Why is this?  What is the difference?  What do we get from the immediacy of social media that we do not get from a blog, and what benefits do blogs have that we do not have from Tweeting?  To answer this, I have to explain the different channels I Tweet from and why.

These four different channels on Twitter work to make me happy and give back to my communities in different ways, but I am passionate about each of these topics.

@sfbikegal is a place where I share my love of bikes, cycling, and my art that features bikes

@cproppe is my personal Twitter account, where I share a mix of everything I see online and in life, much related to art, photography, education, my kids and my outings and Marin and Bay Area news

@greenpitcher is an account and blog called "The Green Pitcher" where I share what I read and learn about sustainability, green living, green art and sometimes cycling because it is a form of green transportation. Some of my organic posts from "Art on the Farm" also overlap into this category, as do posts about my art if if supports Marin Organic.
@artonthefarm is the account for a plein air and photography art group that I have participated with since 2005. They were started by a Marin Organic farmer in Bolinas, Alan Mart, who wanted to have a place where everyone could get out and be inspired on the land and create something while also giving back a percentage to Marin Organic. I started assisting with their blog in 2007. Currently only an active Twitter account, I post updates that support Marin Organic, organic farming and living. There is a hope that this group will start up again in the future, but we are taking a break at the moment.
Why do you need 4 different accounts?

Since we Tweet short bits frequently, it is much easier to only share about a single topic in a channel than to share everything, all the time.  It allows people who enjoy cycling to only follow me on the bike account and not have to hear about my entire life on another Twitter account.  It allows me to create lists of people that care about cycling and direct my messages only to that group.  I will be more likely to get responses from a group of 400 cycling advocates about a cycling question than I would on my own personal account.  The key is to follow all the cycling enthusiasts and groups on that one account and begin to engage and respond to them.  This is where you find you will learn more about cycling yourself, and find out what you need to know from other advocates.  It also allows me to share my bike related art with people who will more likely appreciate it. I learned about the group "Art Crank" and the Bike Art Poster Show they do each year.

Bike Poster History Minute from ARTCRANK on Vimeo.

You can also win contests online, just by tweeting a favorite photo on Instagram and Twitter. I won a bike from Clif Bar's contest by sharing a photo hiking with my son while we were eating Clif Mojo Bars. @ClifBar and @PublicBikes are great on Twitter and Instagram for cycling inspiration in the Bay Area and beyond.
The same is true for @greenpitcher and my other accounts.  By filtering what I share and who I follow, I can learn a lot about this topic from online media very quickly and with precision.

I can do a Twitter Search for "organic" and post things I find that day that are interesting on @artonthefarm.  I can follow organic companies and share their tweets of interest.  I can search for "bike art" and Retweet those findings to the bike channel.  The one thing I always do is research things and read them before I retweet them.  I won't retweet things I have not read myself.

What is the downside to all this online tweeting and filtering and having different channels?

Well, to be honest, there is less writing going on.  I haven't spent time on my blogs as much because I am online all the time with Twitter accounts.  However, it has been a more connected time.  I have actually gotten to meet and interact with so many more people on Twitter than I ever did from my blogs.  There is a group of us in Marin that go to "tweetups", which are really just a night out for dinner or a Birthday celebration for one of our local friends.  We have really become friends online, from Twitter.  It's extremely gratifying.  This is not something I found from my blog writing.  The blog is more of a diary and tool for writing longer pieces about life.  Truly, a wonderful writer's tool.  I am here today, writing about Twitter and why I haven't blogged as much.  Obviously, this longer explanation on a blog is here because the format of a blog allows for a longer explanation and moment of deeper thought.

Are Blogger and Twitter both needed?

Absolutely.  I find all of these tools incredibly useful.  My art and life has been archived on a blog for almost a decade now.  If I ever want to write a book or turn this into a book for my kids, it will be doable.

What am I doing now?

My goals have changed in my life over the past two years, and I will say I learned a lot online to help me get here.  My career has moved back into digital design(which I have done since 1990) and Production Art for Organic Foods. I have studied packaging design at Academy of Art University, How University, and am updating my skills as needed with Typography on Skillshare.  The online tools out there for an artist or designer are truly incredible.
Life is possible online, but we still need to learn how to "be" in the real world. How to work with people and communicate with others. This is important too. On the fine art side, I have been working on a children's book about Mt. Tam and Coyotes, and it is still in progress, but I hope to finish it by the end of the year.
It's not the prime focus now, but I plan to complete it for my sons. I am enjoying co-parenting my sons with their father.  We have learned how to work together by being with our sons apart. Although we still reside in the same home, we split up and don't do things together as a family. Their father will take them one weekend, I will have them the next, and so on.  It works better this way, with very little drama, and we both feel good about who we share our time with, although these are very different groups of people.

In general, living my life online opened me up to many different people and places I could go outside of my relationship that had value, even when my own relationship did not. I believe the online path to real world change is significant, and truly a miracle for many of us who perhaps saw no other path out of our difficult lives. Being online actually does open up more paths than you can imagine.  Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have saved me over these passed years, as has Blogger. Each avenue has allowed me to travel, learn, grow and meet just the right people I needed to.

What a difference a couple years can make.  Who knows what we will see in 2020?  I am keeping my mind wide open for the possibilities.