They say a Twitter feed is the window to the soul.
Maybe that’s not quite the case, but a quick scroll through Ann Marie Brokmeier’s proves to be a revealing endeavor.
“If you went to my home page, you’d probably see somebody tweeting about an event in Baltimore, and someone from black Twitter tweeting about Ferguson or something under the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, and you’ll probably see something queer, and a cute emergency with pictures of dogs,” the 26-year-old said.
Brokmeier (@annmariebrok), who lives in Hampden with her partner, joined Twitter in 2009, where she tweets about everything from social justice issues and local news to literary roulette and vegetarian delights. After stints living around Maryland and Washington, D.C., the University of Baltimore grad student was new to the city and didn’t know many people; she then started talking to locals on Twitter who read a favorite blog of hers, and she forged virtual friendships that soon became IRL ones.
“I started meeting a lot of people in this area that I really got along with. We were talking on Twitter all the time, and honestly, most of my friends that I have now in Baltimore I met on Twitter,” she said. “It’s a really strange thing that non-Twitter people don’t understand.”
Next came Brokmeier’s blog of vegetarian recipes, Let's Give Peas a Chance, which she created when she and a friend went meatless and wanted to share an online cookbook of sorts. The Mobbies picked it up, and Brokmeier’s social media profile began to rise; with more blog readers came more Twitter followers, and Brokmeier felt some anxiety about stepping up her game.
“As I started to get more and more followers, I thought, ‘Oh my God, I can’t just post dog pictures all day,” she said. “Luckily, Twitter really loves dog photos.”
Brokmeier also gained real-life friends from Twitter, and in turn, more followers. Best friend @lizrawr, for instance, had a large Twitter following of her own, and when they’d correspond online, Brokmeier would see a follower bump.
“She’s really funny and we met on Twitter and we’ve been friends for years now,” Brokmeier said.
Brokmeier frequently follows and tweets about topics such as mental health, feminism and #BlackLivesMatter. While people with similar interests undoubtedly reside in Baltimore, their voices are often drowned out, and social media provides an outlet where they can be heard, Brokmeier said.
“I think that the communities exist in Baltimore, but Twitter is a really amazing platform to give those people a safe space and a voice, and we’re able to find each other easier that way,” she said. “I don’t think it’s impossible to find those communities [in real life], but I think Twitter is a really amazing tool to really make them stand out.”
Her feed is a reflection of Brokmeier’s background working in the mental health field, a skill set she utilized during the city’s unrest in April after the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. The “huge self-care advocate” wanted to help without distracting from the protests' causes, so she drafted a "self-care for activists" card (encouraging sleep, eating and a supportive network), made a lot of copies and distributed them to marchers.
“I think that’s a struggle that a lot of people were dealing with, especially white people -- how do we be part of this without taking the space or the voice of someone else?” she said. “I just figured, oh, I’m going to do this kind of zine-style self-care card. It’s very small and the quality that you saw is the quality of it. It’s done in pencil and I scanned it.”
The cards made a bigger splash than Brokmeier imagined, and at least once a week, she still sees a photo of the card on Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter. When people reach out for permission to use the photo online, Brokmeier has only one request.
“My one stipulation when people ask if they can reuse it is, ‘Can you keep my handle on the bottom of it?”
"The 410 in 140" puts the spotlight on prominent Baltimore Twitter personalities. If you have a suggestion of someone to be featured, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read interviews with @dennisthecynic, @paulmgardner and @slb79.