On Twitter Act As If You Are In A Small Village in Guatemala

Twitter is very much like a small village in Guatemala.

My time living in Todos Santos in the Cuchumatan mountains in Guatemala reminds me a lot of this venture into the twitterverse. When I first arrived in this small Mayan village, 2.5 hours up a winding dirt road into the mountains, I didn't know anyone, I didn't speak the language, but I knew I wanted to learn.

In my travels my goal was always to learn about the culture, and in this case also learn Spanish and hopefully take some beautiful pictures along the way. Back then I fancied myself as a freelance photographer (and got paid very infrequently for it so I don't know if that made me more of a hobbiest or not very driven as a business person) But I've always been all about the experience and not the money. If it was about money I'm sure I would have been much more like the photographer that visited for a weekend from a big unnamed magazine conglomeration.

I'll explain. When I first moved to the village and began living with a local family to immerse myself, not only in the language but also in the culture, I was very hesitant to take out my camera. Because Todos Santos is so remote (and I hope it is still this way over 10 years later) all the villagers dressed in traditional Maya traje, the village specific clothing that is woven usually by hand and each pattern and color is very specific to the village. Other villages had assimilated more into western dress but Todos Santos, at the time I lived there, was very grounded in its traditions, clothing and culture.

Everywhere I looked I saw beautiful pictures, but I didn't take any of them. I didn't want to walk into this close knit group and just start shooting up the place with my camera without knowing anyone. First I had to learn to communicate and get to know people. Then as I started passing them in my daily travels I'd exchange a few words, buy fruit from their stands, sit and chat outside their tiendas and eventually I started to take my camera out and ask for permission to take a picture. Because they now knew me, they didn't mind. And my family that I lived with was very generous in letting me take pictures of all aspects of their lives.

One weekend there was a big buzz, head shaking, and frowning faces. People were annoyed and I soon saw the cause of their agitation. There was an entourage of westerners clad in khaki
with cameras slung over their shoulders, complex lights, and vests full of accessories. They were firing away as if in formation, leaving no man, woman or child standing. Todos Santos was touted as a unique place because they had not become westernized and because of that have been a stopping place for many a wood-be photographer. But this was different, this was a definite agenda and no one was asking for permission. At least not politely. I'm sure they had to get model release forms. But still the people were not happy and they were telling me so.

Twitter reminds me of this experience because when I first joined twitter, I initially started to observe. I'd listen and watch what other people did and then slowly as I got to know the twitter village, began to add some of my own information to it. Not in an obtrusive way, but in a way to get to know people. To see who else had similar interests and so on. Hopefully gaining more credibility as I go, and being less intimidating to the locals.

Some people on twitter are like those big wig photographers who came in for a weekend, tried to get as much material as they could, and then move on to their next location. I find myself at times bombarded with sales messages on twitter, and I feel like the villagers when they came to me saying they were upset about the photographers. Just as the photographers didn't earn the right to take pictures of the villagers, I don't think some twitterati have earned the right to ask for my money no matter how altruistic they think they are being. When someone starts following me and all I see are calls to action on their products, services or seminars, I cringe away just like the villagers did when foreign cameras were stuck in their face with no warning.

I think there is a place on twitter for selling your services, but I really don't think it should be just about every post you put up. I know I'd like for people to buy houses in my communities, but I also knew instinctively when I started on twitter, that this couldn't be my constant message or people would start shying away just as the villagers tried to get away from the gringo's with cameras.

When you join a small village like Todos Santos, or even a big village like the twitter nation, you still need to tread lightly and respectfully and think about how you would want to be treated.

Get This


Post a Comment


Bookmark and Share

Twitter Updates

Blog Visitors

Blog Archive

Blog Catalog

Social Networking Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

Book Mark on Onlywire