I am in my “pre-teen” in terms of my “Twitter year” and enjoying the experience. Many of my friends and colleagues have expressed their surprise at my not having a Facebook page (For the record, I do have one but do not do anything with it). Those who “facebook” swear by its usefulness in reaching out to the wider social world. It has also been used during the Tibetan elections of 2010-2011. However, even though Facebook may be good, I have decided that it is not my cup of tea.
On the other hand, if you handle it well, Twitter has the advantage of enabling you to be constantly in an interactive conversation. One can moderate how this conversation will go by selecting who one follows. For example, my primary interest is in Tibet, Bhutan and the United States. Accordingly, I @bhuchungtsering have chosen to follow individuals who enable me to follow developments on these fronts. Additionally, language-wise, I have opted to tweet primarily in Tibetan (this also made me limit my following). This is for two reasons. I am constantly aware of the question of my individual identity, and language being the path towards strengthening it. I know my weakness in Tibetan and so this is a way to challenge myself to improve my command over the language. My friends and followers do seem to feel that I show improvement on this front. The second reason is to encourage my fellow Tibetans, particularly the younger ones some of whom feel learning Tibetan has no relevance to today’s modernized world. By showing that Tibetan can be used on as modern a channel as Twitter or in my blog (I have a blog both in English and Tibetan) I am making an effort to let them know that twitting in Tibetan is fun.
Obviously, since tweeting in Tibetan is almost all done by Tibetans, I can’t name each and everyone of them. But I do enjoy reading the postings by @Chungtse, a Tibetan writer and scholar (whose day job is with the Department of Education in Dharamsala). I also follow the comments by @Toyikadom, who is a parliamentarian and who has a knack for looking at developments. I also follow some Tibetan journalists, including @MyYak and @Sherabt, as well as civil servants like @yidingneng, @kalsangt and @tenzinsewo. Then there are monks like @rasaphonya and @shaalenbu. They are all quite active in tweeting in Tibetan.
There are some Tibetans who tweet from Tibet and I value their postings, which are not only informative but also meaningful. I admire the effort they put in being on this social network in comparison to those of us who are in the free world who just have to think of having an access to a computer and internet connection, and nothing else.
As for Bhutan, I have always had a fascination for this brother country of ours. I come from a place in Tibet that is on the other side of Jomo Lhari, the mountain that is sacred to both Tibetans and Bhutanese. I am also fasicinated by how the Bhutanese society is trying to preserve and protect its identity while keeping up with the times. While the the modern history of Tibet and the Tibetan people have been wakeup calls to Bhutan in many ways, I see there are lessons from Bhutan for the Tibetans in diaspora, too. I maintain communication with some Bhutanese in order to exchange views and provide an “outsider’s” perspective of developments in the Bhutanese society.
I follow quite some Bhutanese. There is @tsheringtobgay, who is a parliamentarian (he is in fact the opposition leader there) who constantly uses twitter for his political advocacy. Then there is writer @SonamOngmo, who is a passionate Bhutanese and takes every opportunity to espouse the rights of Bhutanese citizens. Among the younger generation, I keenly follow the tweets of @yiwangpindarica, whose postings give me much insight into the mindset of the new generation of Bhutanese. She is a journalist and has an interesting outlook on happenings around her. I follow @URangdol, for his forthright and candid take on things Bhutan, big and small. He is a student in Bangkok, I think.
Unfortunately, I am yet to come across a Bhutanese who has opted to tweet in Dzongkha although there are some who do write an occasional word or two, whether it is a mantra or even their name. I have conveyed my views to some of them that using Dzongkha on such fora as Twitter and Blogs may be a way to promote their language to the younger generation.
While I have met some Westerners who have told me they read my tweets in Tibetan, the only “inji” who occasionally tweet in Tibetan may be @AmaliaSings, “American singer of Tibetan music.”
The above are some of the twitter handles that I have been following for a long time. In recent times more people have started tweeting in Tibetan, which is a welcome development. Also, if you look at the list of individuals that I follow there are officials, political activists (@tendor), scholars (@lhatseri ), IT Geeks (@phuntsokdorjee), monks, etc. They do not tweet regularly in Tibetan, though.
All in all, the Twitter provides all of us a level playing field irrespective of our individual status and we can indulge in spontaneous conversations across time zones.