All the world’s a-twitter

Every now and then I say something I immediately regret. Today was one of those days.

While scanning my Twitter feed this afternoon I came across a website supposedly looking for contributors. Unfortunately I never found out if it was true because as soon as I opened the website I had to close it again. It was hideous. (And no, I’m not posting the link here. Let’s just say it’s for your own good).

One of my Twitter friends builds websites for a living, and so I sent her a message along the lines of “Is it just me, or is this site really bad?” and included the link.

A few minutes later she wrote back: “Umm, I designed it”.

When I saw her reply I actually felt sick. Hurting a stranger’s feelings is bad enough (although I’m yet to ask a woman who isn’t pregnant when her baby’s due). But to hurt a friend’s feelings is just awful. I quickly sent back an apology, and hoped the earth would quickly swallow me whole.

A few minutes after that, she sent me another message:

“When I was 3 years old. Ha! Isn’t it revolting?”

Yep, she was joking. No harm done (apart from my life expectancy being reduced by a few years). It took quite a while for the sickening feeling to subside, but the good news is we’re still friends.

Now here’s what I find truly amazing about the whole thing: we’ve never actually met. All our chatting has been online. And yet I was devastated when I thought I’d hurt her feelings.

Such is the power of Twitter.

I joined up a couple of years ago, but quickly gave up on it. It seemed pretty stupid at the time. You write what you’re doing/thinking, and people follow you to see what you wrote. You can also follow other people and see what they’ve written. Big deal.

Then about a year ago a friend I’ve known for years convinced me to give it another go. I promised myself I’d give it a chance for a week or two, and then see if it was worth the effort.

To begin with it was just as boring the first time around. But then I started chatting with people, and finding new people to follow. And then it hit me: Twitter is all about conversations. It was just like the chat rooms I used years ago (and where I ended up meeting my wife), only better. By the end of the two weeks I was hooked.

And I’ve been on it ever since.

In the past year I’ve “met” a lot of great people on Twitter. Most are what I’d call casual acquaintances—we catch up every so often for a chat (and usually a laugh), but then might not catch up again for days or even weeks.

But a lot of them are now good friends of mine, and we catch up a lot more often (sometimes even in person). We share ideas and information. We laugh at the world, and at ourselves. And we cheer each other up when we’re a down.

Then there are those I consider very close friends. We’ve shared not only ideas and information but also our hopes, our dreams and ourselves. We’ve been there to help each other through the dark times, and to celebrate the successes. These are the friendships I cherish the most, and ones I hope will still be going long after Twitter has given way to The Next Big Thing. (Not that I want it to.)

It’s reached the point where I can’t imagine life without it. (Actually I can. I just have to think back to the last time Twitter was out of action.) It’s like an endless party, and all the people I’ve invited are just great to be around. (One of my closest Twitter friends and I even wrote a piece about the whole party idea.)

To everyone I’ve met on Twitter, whether I speak to you once a month or all the time, thank you. You have become part of my life, and it’s so much richer as a result. (For those of you I haven’t yet met in person, let’s try and change that, okay?)

And if we haven’t chatted on Twitter yet, please feel free to drop in and have a chat with me.

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Mercedes February 27, 2010, 5:37 pm

    Great post! I was having a conversation the other day with a group of older women who don’t use The Devil’s Tool, the Internet. I was trying to explain that real life friends are absolutely fantastic and we’d die without them, but we’re very limited by the two or three people in town who have similar interests. But on Twitter, I search for writers, and BOOYA! They’re everywhere! Some of these people have become dear, dear friends, and I’m grateful for that.

  • Cate Bolt February 27, 2010, 5:54 pm

    Nawww, that was beautiful. I’d love to be more intellectual and add something of value, but …it was just beautiful.
    I’ve often said of Twitter, “you either get it, or you don’t” – I’m glad I get it, I wouldn’t like to be without it either.

  • Pauline February 27, 2010, 5:59 pm

    wow, my heart stopped when I saw that first interaction! I agree 100 percent with this whole post. Twitter is fantastic for networking and great friendships can evolve from simple 140 character updates. I love it. And I love that you and your friend are still well, you know…friends.

  • japinder March 7, 2010, 6:34 am

    Hi guys….reading this post and then the comments above makes me feel that perhaps I’m one of those who ‘do not get it.’

    I joined Twitter around 2 weeks back and don’t really know what to do with it. I mean, how to use it meaningfully? How to start? And oh yes, I’m a writer.

    Bill can you please give me some pointers? I’ll followup on this comment. Thanks.

  • MaidInAustralia September 1, 2010, 1:46 pm

    Oh I love twitter. I am about the only person in my group of friends or family who use it, and they look at me like I’ve got two heads when I try to describe it. As a journalist, it’s been an incredible tool, with stories breaking first on twitter, and many others just appearing in tweets, waiting to be followed up. As a writer and parent, I’ve met many others who share the same ideals and skills. I’ve used it to promote my blogs and find other fab blogs to read. And most of all I’ve met some great mates who I probably would never have met in the real world. For every crazy person on twitter there must be thousands of brilliant, fun, supportive people who really have enriched my life. Some I knew vaguely before twitter, and have grown to become friends. Some are colleagues. Some I’ve met and some I’ve yet to meet in person. Whatever, it’s enriched my world.
    Even my kids will sometimes say: Let’s ask twitter! (When they’ve asked me a question I don’t know the answer to.) Because we all know someone on twitter will know. And don’t get me started on the overshares, the TMI blogs, the laughs and the silly You Tube videos that make twitter so much fun.
    Whatever did we do without it?


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