Day 6

Sweden let its citizens loose on the country's Twitter, but now it's time to say 'hej då'

In 2011, the Swedish Institute decided to allow individual citizens to take control of the country's tourism account @Sweden. Some talked about pizza, while others made crude jokes. Now, 200,000 tweets later, it's time is done.

356 random Swedes tweeted for one week at a time, saying whatever they wanted. It went surprisingly well

Curators of Sweden posted it's final Swede-curated tweet on September 30. (Curators of Sweden/Swedish Institute)
Listen4:23

For seven years, regular Swedes were given the keys to the country's Twitter account for one week at a time. @Sweden curators — all 356 of them — could say whatever they wanted as long as they didn't break Swedish law. 

When Mattias Axelsson's turn came up last month, he wanted the world to know about the country's lesser-known traditions.

"Like that we have Pizza Day on New Year's Day, and that we have Cinnamon Bun Day on October 4th," the school teacher and blogger told Day 6.

After the account's 150,000 followers each had a week of musings on Swedish culture, Axelsson was the final citizen to curate @Sweden.

Organized by the Swedish Institute to "boost interest in Sweden," the account posted a farewell video on October 1. It remains as an archive of nearly 200,000 thoughts from everyday citizens.

"It's quite sad that the account is gone," Axelsson said. "It shows the world the richness of Swedish culture and the richness of Swedish people."

Unprecedented control

Before being run by Swedes, @Sweden was a typical tourism account featuring photos of moose and the Stockholm skyline at dusk.

The Curators of Sweden project was groundbreaking when it first launched. The idea of handing over a branded tourism account to citizens was described as "either genius or insane" back in 2011.

Announcing the end of the project, the Swedish Institute said "every project has an end," and acknowledged that since it first began in 2011, the internet has changed.

The growth and polarization of social media has some wondering whether that was the project's true downfall.

"When it started seven years ago, Twitter was much, much smaller," Axelsson said. "And I also think that the tone of Twitter was more friendly … seven years ago."

Jack Werner, left, is a freelance journalist in Stockholm. Mattias Axlesson is a school teacher and blogger in Guttenberg, Sweden. (Kate Gabor, Submitted by Mattias Axlesson)

PR from 'beginning to the end'

Despite being a well-loved — and usually positive — corner of Twitter, the project has had its share of criticism.

"You have to remember that this account was a PR thing. It was PR from the beginning to the end," said Jack Werner, @Sweden's first curator.

When Werner first took the reigns back in December 2011, he tweeted with a rather crude sense of humour.

"I was myself and I lost hundreds of followers the first couple of days as a result," Werner said.

And like any scheme involving hundreds of Twitter users, things can go awry.

The account came under fire last year when a user blocked 14,000 Twitter users she deemed to be involved in "threats against migrants, women and LGBTQ people," according to Sweden's the Local.

Curator Vian Tahir, an online security expert, used a so-called block list that also included the names of innocent users. The Swedish Institute unblocked all 14,000 users the following day.

"That conversation entered into a larger conversation about how Twitter [is] constantly undervaluing conservative voices," Werner said.

Criticized for pizza toppings

But, like a trip to IKEA, all good things must come to an end. Though some followers have already expressed their disappointment, Werner believes @Sweden has run its course.

"I think it has done good things, but it's not a bad idea to close it," Werner said.

Fortunately, the account closed on a positive note. Axelsson says he faced little criticism during his week as a curator.

Users asked him questions and took interest in his tweets about Swedish culture, he says.

"The most criticism I got was when I posted a picture of a Swedish pizza with curry, pineapple and peanuts, and actually, some Italian guy was really annoyed with this picture," said Axelsson.

"This is not a pizza, they said."

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.