James Governor's Monkchips

Why I started following a more diverse set of people on twitter.

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I have been meaning to write about why I changed the makeup of my twitter feed to make it more diverse, and how that made me happier, smarter and more effective for a while.

Seems like now is the time. I got a nudge to do so from Kim Crayton, who runs a business coaching consultancy with a strong focus on diversity and inclusion, after seeing this tweet and thread by Josh Glover.

I had a very similar experience. I think of myself as reasonably aware when it comes to diversity. A while ago I tried a twitter app that estimated the gender ratio of the people I follow, and I remember being fairly horrified. Today I ran a test with Proportio.nl and as you can see in the chart above the results are still not great. If however you check out the list of folks I follow, which is chronological, the picture is far more encouraging. One problem I had when I made the change to improve the diversity of my feed was that I really didn’t want to follow more people than I already was. I didn’t want to have a cull either, so I just had to give up on self imposed rules about keeping my following count down.

Following more diverse voices has some implications. A lot more discrimination is surfaced. Chances are high the women and people of colour you follow will talk about the barrage of sexism and or racism they face in the workplace, in their personal lives and on social media.  The discrimination should, rightly, make you angry.

Please read Danielle’s entire thread.

It’s better that we face it than avoid it. Then we can look to improve things. You will certainly find yourself challenged. If you mute “the politics” you’re not learning. You will have “not all men” reactions. Deal with it. Question your assumptions. Get out of your comfort zone. You’ll be smarter for it, and learn crucial lessons in empathy. Sometimes it’s the little things.

You’ll see wonderful support and love for each other by the folks in your networks. Sisterhood, for example, is a really beautiful, uplifting thing. In tech it’s essential to keeping afloat.

You’ll learn cool stuff like how to compliment people.

Following a broader range of people means that suddenly – surprise! – it’s a lot easier to find amazing speakers for tech events. I know right? Who knew? Opening yourself up to 100% of the population allows you to significantly raise the bar.

What is the future you want? It doesn’t have to be a future.

So in the spirit of helping you to diversify who you follow, I came across a wonderful idea recently. Step forward Andreas Savvides.

Here is @andrs’ twitter list – which bizarrely only has two followers right now. Get on it, people! I decided to follow every woman on the list this year as a hack to further improve the diversity of the folks I follow.

I still have a ton of work do to. For example – gender is of course not a proxy for diversity, it’s only one aspect of it.

Finally I want to talk about what it feels like returning from a trip to a tech conference. After a few days being in an overwhelmingly white, male, environment I get on a plane and fly back to London. The closer I get to Hackney, the happier I am. I am on the train and there are people all around me, going about their business. They’re women, they’re men, they’re black, they’re white, they’re Nigerian, they’re Jamaican, they’re Turkish, they’re Kurdish, they’re Indian, they’re Pakistani, they’re Chinese, they’re Japanese, they’re Irish, they’re French, they’re British. I am no longer the majority. I am home.

2 comments

  1. thank you James – this is exactly what I found on Twitter, a range of perspectives I would never have encountered otherwise.
    I can’t say it made me happier though, as I was living in blissful ignorance as to just how prevalent sexism and racism still were..

    Results for @dotkaye
    Sampled 182 people you follow
    nonbinary men women
    People you follow 1% 42% 57%

  2. Hey Doug – you raise a really great point.

    In an age of outrage, it seems counter intuitive at best that knowing more about how poorly people are treated might make you “happy”. in my case i would say there are 2 aspects to how this works for me.

    1. for all the anger, as I said in the piece, seeing how supportive people are of each other is really wonderful. that makes me happy.

    2. i try and use the knowledge to inspire me to do better. running my Monki Gras, conference, for example, which does pretty well on inclusion. Or being a founding organiser of Coed Code, a D&I initiative, which is now hitting its stride.

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