The Year of Listening Intentionally

I am, I suppose, a fan – or at least a regular inhabitant – of social media. It’s not always the most wholesome place to spend time; but in the year of our Lord 2021, it’s the most reliable place to hear about the lives of the mass of people who I love.

I’ve spent the past few years curating my Facebook so I can see and keep in touch with some of my key people, all over the world: I can see baby photos, I can hear about new jobs, I can keep in the loop with the things that they’re things that they’re up to and the places they have been. It’s not the full picture (and not even necessarily the real picture at all) – it has nothing on sitting in a coffee shop and looking at friends in the face – but social media, for me, has become a place to listen, and to learn.

Like most of us, I’ve been able to curate my social media feeds in a way that they are filled with people that I love, voices that I agree with and stories that I am interested in. It’s not inherently unhelpful, but it can be a bit of an echo chamber at times. And so, here we are –

This year, I want to use social media – namely, Twitter – in a different way: 2022 is The Year of Listening Intentionally.

It’s an idea that I stumbled across recently, via Twitter user Thabiti Anyabwile, who for the past few years has cultivated his experience on Twitter in this way. He explained, in a recent post:

“Every once in a while, I unfollow everyone I’ve been following to refocus my timeline on a specific. For example, in years past, I’ve only followed women for a year”.

The idea is to curate my Twitter timeline to focus on a specific voice, experience or minority – with the aim of learning from a group of people that might not normally be front and centre for me; to gain exposure to people who might not necessarily be in my orbit.

I’m not going to be writing essays or books this year – there won’t be merch; this Year of Listening Intentionally is not about producing, but about listening.

This year, I am using my social media to hear the voices, specifically, of people who are seeking refuge or asylum, or impacted by immigration.

What do I know about immigration, refuge seeking and asylum seeking, at this point?

Honestly, embarrassingly little.

There are things that I just know in my gut: I know that no human should live in fear of war of violence in the country that they are based; I know that it is not illegal to seek asylum. I know that there are laws and policies which seem to harm more than they help, and I know that I am in a privileged position, compared to most of the world’s population.

I’ve seen the pictures in the media of boats and lorries and bodies on beaches. I’ve read headlines, and I’ve skirted around the edge of this conversation – but I want, and need, to learn more, and to listen more.

Where am I starting, and what do I want to know?

This week, I unfollowed the hundred-or-so people that I have been following on Twitter; and for the next twelve months, I will only be following voices and stories around immigration, refugees and asylum seeking.

I’d love to hear stories and to get to know some real people: both people who are impacted and who are living out these experiences every day, and people who are working to serve and working for change.

I’d love to know what is changing, and what I can do to help.

I’d love to be more informed, and to walk forwards with awareness and empathy.

Get involved:

You can come along for the ride, on Twitter: @heaths2022

I’d love your recommendations, resources and stories – drop me a DM or get in touch to let me know who I should be looking for.

Let’s go!

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