I joined Twitter in the summer of 2008 and for 12 years I didn’t tweet. I used the app to keep up with breaking news, follow writers whose work I enjoyed, and to stave off my fear of becoming out of touch with popular culture as I got older. I enjoyed Twitter in those years, but never felt the urge to contribute my own 280-character missive into the fray.
That changed in 2020. I can’t tell you why—other than pandemics make people do weird things—but I decided I was going to be more than a passive observer of Twitter. I would tweet. And not only was I going to participate, I would to engage with “horse twitter,” which I’d heard was a very active, rowdy group of passionate online citizens who were quick to engage in fierce debate. I don’t generally enjoy arguing with strangers on the Internet but, again, pandemics lead to weird decisions.
Now, four months after my first tweet I’ve sent nearly 300. And the experience is not at all what I anticipated. In fact, I’m finding my twitter niche in the horse community to be the opposite of division and disagreement. The tweets that have drawn the most engagement are the ones that reflect the common, shared and positive experiences of working and living with horses.
One of my early tweets was an expression of gratitude for horses who lift up the next hoof for picking before you even ask, a thought that crosses my mind often. As the “likes” rolled in, I was both surprised and heartened that others noticed and appreciate when horses do this. My plea to normalize using mounting blocks, and a picture of searching for a herd in thick fog struck similarly unexpected positive chords. In fact, my only even slightly controversial horse-related tweet thus far has been about the practice of putting Santa hats on horses for photographs: I contend they are humiliated by this, others disagree.
Don’t get me wrong, I think debate is healthy, in life and on social media. And I’m sure I could start trouble on horse twitter if I wanted to; I’ve observed and reported on the horse world long enough to know where the hot buttons are and how to push them. But I think there’s enough people doing that already, especially on Twitter. Frankly, I’m enjoying finding out that there’s more than unites us than divides us.
Twitter isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time, for sure. But if you’ve been curious about engaging with the horse community there, pop in and say hello (you can find me at @CMBarakat). It’s a nicer place than you probably imagined.