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‘BeingNOLA’ Twitter account allows ‘a new New Orleanian’ to share ‘their’ New Orleans every week

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What makes a New Orleanian a New Orleanian?
Do you have to have been born at Charity or Touro? Do you have to have graduated from McDonogh 35 or St. Aug.? Do you have to have a last name like Charbonnet or Laurent? Does your family still have to live in the 7th ward in the same house on the same street?
With the popularity of New Orleans having grown in the last few years, the city has seen those who consider themselves to be New Orleanians grow as well, even though many of them may not be able to answer “yes” to any of the aforementioned questions, which brings up another question, "How important is it that they be able to answer yes?"
‘BeingNOLA’ Twitter handle showcases ‘a new New Orleanian every week’ | IntheNOLA.comNot too long ago on Twitter, we stumbled across an account called @BeingNOLA and we were instantly intrigued. Just who’s running this @BeingNOLA account? What are they gonna talk about? How they love eating at Commander’s Palace? How they love going to Jazz Fest and Mardi Gras? How they don’t miss a second line? Yay (insert sarcasm).
Modeled after the @sweden Twitter account (which is run by the Swedish government to promote tourism and culture and features “a new Swede every week”), @BeingNOLA features “a new New Orleanian every week” to share with the world what it’s like to be NOLA.
“If you live in the Greater New Orleans area, you can volunteer for the @BeingNOLA account,” explained the founder of @BeingNOLA (who wishes to remain we'll call him/her the Founder). “I have had a few people volunteer who visit a lot from close cities, but I've had to turn them away. A would-be volunteer who lives in Mississippi has held a grudge against me because of it. But, there obviously have to be physical boundaries. You can’t volunteer just because you come in for Saints games.”
With those preliminary rules, the Founder described exactly who/what a New Orleanian is. He/she said, “I would describe a New Orleanian as someone who fully embraces the city as it is, but who is willing to work toward change while keeping the customs. I don’t think you have to come in and immediately jump into a second line holding a soft-shell crab po’boy and drinking a Barq's, but I think you have to live here knowing that we are a fully formed culture unlike any other American city. It’s everyone’s responsibility to fight things like crime, corruption, inequality, homelessness, poverty, a poor education system, etc. But, it should go without saying that everyone should work toward positive change everywhere.”
‘BeingNOLA’ Twitter handle showcases ‘a new New Orleanian every week’ | IntheNOLA.comThose who run the @BeingNOLA account are all volunteers. “There hasn’t been much rhyme or reason to the livelihoods of the volunteers,” the Founder said. We’ve had everyone from people in corporate positions, wait staff, and college students to a public radio employee, an elementary school principal, a Unitarian reverend, and an attorney to name a few. I knew from the beginning that there would be some disparities in race, education, income, etc., but that all rests in who uses Twitter and how they do it.”
The Founder continued, “A lot of the @BeingNOLA volunteers are young, college-educated white people. There have been a lot of complaints about that and all I can do is reiterate that if people want to see diversity, if people want to follow a particular experience, then they have to volunteer or encourage others to volunteer. I’m not handpicking or vetting volunteers, so that will have to come from NOLA Twitter at large. I’d personally like to see people who are a little older and wiser, more informed in local politics and history, with a lot more life experience here, but that demographic isn’t really using Twitter.”
A good majority of those who have controlled the @BeingNOLA account are “transplants” to the city, however, “that’s the nature of the NOLA Twitter,” the Founder noted. “Most people volunteering are pro-active transplants excited to share their lives. I think there’s a bit of complacency and some eye rolling among locals who follow the account, but what that ends up looking like to me is someone who is unenthusiastic about sharing their life and personal community. And that’s fine, too. I understand wanting to keep things sacred and in-house, but that’s not at all the point of the account. The original point was to open up an insular community to say to America, ‘Hey, guess what? We go to work, we have friends and families, we complain about property taxes. It’s not all just Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest all the time. We are mainly ordinary people who happen to live in an extraordinary place.’”
“There’s a lot of grumbling every week, but it’s difficult for me to take someone’s complaints seriously if they haven’t offered some solution to the perceived problem. So, the account remains all-volunteer and if the volunteers continue to be transplants, then that’s whose lives and conversations we’ll read about.”
‘BeingNOLA’ Twitter handle showcases ‘a new New Orleanian every week’ | IntheNOLA.comOne of those conversations that blew up a few weeks ago asked Twitter users to share their #NOLAConfessions. From “I hate Jazz Fest” to “ I make left turns on Tulane Ave. all the time,” New Orleanians unloaded some of their deep and darkest secrets! #NOLAConfessions was so great! I’m glad people took notice. A lot of our other conversations come back down to food. Food preferences have so much cultural weight. It can tell you who people are, what their history is, what they value, the environment, and the geography. I’ve seen some really great conversations about it and almost every single @BeingNOLA participant has started or joined a discussion on it.”
@BeingNOLA just recently celebrated their one-year anniversary with a party at Treo where many of the previous curators of the account got to meet each other.  
“I hope we keep going and reaching new volunteers who are eager to talk about their lives here,” concluded the Founder. “It’s the best city in the country, possibly the world, and I would think everyone who lives here wakes up every day and wants to tell everyone on the planet that.”
For more information about @BeingNOLA, visit the website and follow on Twitter.

Photographs taken from the (1) Tracey, curator for the week of June 15; (2) Zach, curator for the week of June 9; (3) Tara Jill, curator for the week of June 1.
Last modified on Wednesday, 18 June 2014
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