I was recently introduced to Chloe by the staff of the Maine Women’s Fund. Chloe was honored earlier this week at the Maine Women’s Fund Leadership Luncheon along with Mary Bonauto, Fatuma Hussein, and Maine Boys to Men. Chloe was the “Samantha Smith Awardee”—The Samantha Smith Award recognizes a young woman from Maine who works to promote social change in her school or community, inspires other girls to become active in supporting long lasting change in Maine, uses her voice boldly to influence others and make a difference in her community. She was also kind enough to take the time to complete this interview during her final exam period at Harvard. I know you will enjoy her interview as much as I did.
Chloe Maxmin is a rising Senior at Harvard College. She became an activist when she was 12, and she started the Climate Action Club in high school, galvanizing a movement in her school and community. She then founded First Here, Then Everywhere (www.firstheretheneverywhere.org) to empower youth environmentalists. Chloe co-founded Divest Harvard (www.divestharvard.com), and has received national and international recognition for her activism.
Building a broad and inclusive climate movement, customizing news, and disregarding the virtual world …
What was your first experience with social media?
“I don’t remember my very first experience with social media. I founded First Here, Then Everywhere in 2007, which meant that I built my first website, I created a Twitter account right after that. Twitter has always been my primary social media tool. I have made some amazing connections, and I’ve also gleaned an insight into other people’s work and interests. I originally didn’t use Facebook very often, but then I came to see that my account can be for professional organizing purposes. Sharing memes and posting links spreads the word about my work, and reading other people’s statuses has become another news source like Twitter.”
What do you like about social media?
“I like Twitter because I can customize my news. I try to be balanced and varied in my selection of media, and Twitter allows me to collate those sources. Twitter also allows for people around the world to follow actions/events live with hashtags, and it’s a very effective way to spread the word. Facebook works to spread the word if you or your organizational allies have thousands of likes so that you can spread the word about an update or action. Individually, it’s an important to educate your friends about the work that you do and build social networks on campus.”
What do you dislike about social media?
“While Twitter can be used to receive a diverse collection of news articles, it can also be used to narrow exposure to the world. This reinforces existing ideologies and can prevent people from seeing other perspectives. Social media, particularly Facebook, is sometimes used to validate one’s own existence. I didn’t really do something until I put it on Facebook. I disagree with this method of approaching social media. I see and use it purely for organizing and educational purposes.”
What would it be like for you to disconnect from social media for six months?
“I have done this before, and it’s freeing. You can live in the moment, disregard the virtual world, and invest emotional and mental energy in other parts of life. But my purpose at the moment is to build a broad and inclusive climate movement. Social media is a critical part of this process, and–even though I enjoy being disconnected from social media–my choice to be an activist does not allow for me to completely shut down my computer.”
If you could only use three words to describe social media, what would they be?
“Individualized, potential, solidarity.”
Is there a person or brand that you think uses social media effectively?
I love Bill McKibben’s Twitter stream. He shared meaningful and important articles, but he mixes in his own voice and thoughts as he tweets. 350.org’s Facebook and Twitter presence in general is very effective and engaging.
I want to thank Chloe for taking the time to talk with me about her opinions on, and experience with, social media.
You can find Chloe on Twitter at: @chloemaxmin