In which I introduce a cast of 140 characters, contradict myself just as many times and realise Twitter is on a mission to make me a hermit.
‘Typical me, typical me, typical me,
I started something…
And now I’m not too sure.’
Where were we?
Oh yes. So it was the training day. I’d jumped into the Twittersphere and I’d completed the awkward round robin AA style introductions. I’d got as far as the coffee break and summoned the courage to actually speak to someone and find some common ground with a couple of others.
Yes, I actually got to that point on Twitter and all was going quite swimmingly. I flitted in and out of the odd conversation and re-tweeted some stuff. It was nice to have a few friendly faces about so as I didn’t have to sit in the corner all alone, head down. desperately scribbling into my notepad.
I ended Part 1 of this post saying I’d found a place in Twitter where I belong. I mean this quite honestly in that it took me until I was around 17 initially in ‘real life’ to find a group of people I felt I fitted in with. School, until 16 at least, was hell on earth. Once in the sixth form I found a great group to hang out with. However, of course you grow up, grow apart and consequently I have spent most of my 20’s and 30’s, especially my 30’s, trying to find people with whom I have common ground .
I’ll be there for you.
But now I have a problem. A big problem. And that is I am finding that I am growing increasingly reclusive and relying more on Twitter for the stimulating conversation and common ground I crave from others.
This is not healthy. I know it’s not. However, when there are a cast of characters so witty, clever and engaging as the people I’ve met on Twitter, it’s been hard to break back into real life. It’s doubly easy to depend on Twitter when your social life has all but ground to a dribble on account of becoming sole carer for a 5 year old. I have to stay in at night anyway now. As a result, my friendships and social life have been in what I’d term a transitory period for the last two years.
Unsurprisingly, in line with this change in my circumstances, my time on Twitter has evolved beyond recognition from those early days I spoke of in Part 1 for on Twitter I have actually found some friends. These may be people whom I have never met, yet I would definitely consider some of them friends. I know very little about most of them, but I find myself caring about them and checking in on them most days as they do me. This to me is weird but I’m more grateful than they will know having recently lost one of the greatest friendships I’ve ever had. I thought the friendship would transcend all difficulties. A person who understood my social misfit ways and with whom I’d found complete understanding with and whose company I enjoyed above all others. Ultimately something (someone) else got in the way of it and the loss has been no easier to endure than if they’d died. But luckily my increased interaction on Twitter happened to coincide with this loss and the people I’ve met have helped me through no end. Not because they listen to me whine and whinge constantly about my issues (though I know they would if I asked, and some have on occasion,) but more because, when I’m feeling at my lowest ebb, I can rely on opening up the laptop or the phone in the middle of the night and there will be someone there to take my mind away from how I’m feeling – to make me smile or to laugh. I don’t really get this in real lif’ and now I’m worried lately I’ve become too dependent on my ‘tweeps’ (yeah, like a year ago I’d even have known that term existed!).
But of course, social interaction is social interaction and I find myself with the same paranoia and fears on Twitter as I burden myself with in ‘real’ life. Like in my real life, I often worry I will offend. I worry I’m intrusive and too chatty and people will grow bored of me as often seems to happen in real life. I worry I will become over-bearing with my incessant chatter and verbosity (though in all fairness my Twitter bio does point out I am indeed a chatterbox! Follow at your peril) I only am this way though if there is something interesting to talk about. Sadly, I don’t find often the conversation in reality is very often stimulating enough. Unless you count chatting about the latest offers at the nail salon stimulating. I don’t. Ho hum. However on Twitter there are countless conversations taking place at any one time and of course there are simply more people to drop in on and chat with. Similarly if one doesn’t fancy chatting, there are no forced expectations to do so.
Getting to Know You.
In Part 1, I celebrated the wonder of Twitter and I do truly find it wonderful, even if it is taking my life away from me! Particularly wonderful are the writing community there.
I have been trying to rack my brains as to how I got to chatting to most of the people I chat to and I can recall a few specific examples but in general it usually goes along these lines:
1) A person responds to one of my tweets. This was rare in the early days, but now this happens quite often and when it does, I will always respond and this can lead to further conversations. It doesn’t happen every time, but that’s okay. I ‘m not everybody’s cup of tea.
2) I respond to someone else’s tweets. (And no they don’t always respond back, but I don’t take it personally.) I have got better at this. I have got better at opening up or dipping in to conversation, (though I’m still more likely to wait for someone to chat to me.) I don’t always find opening conversations easy either online or in real life. Maintaining conversations is even more exhausting, other than with a very special few. I need high mental stimulation. If I don’t get this from a conversation I get bored, so if I do drop out…well now you know one reason why. I do have quite a short attention span. And I’m fully aware this can make me appear rude. I’m not, I don’t mean to be, I am just very demanding where conversation is concerned. Small talk bores me. The small talk most women I know in the ‘real’ world engage in bores me above all else. I know this is my problem not theirs. I know this is why I don’t have many friends. But on Twitter I have found people who are interesting and clever and can maintain a high level of intellectual conversation. (Which I might add does not revolve around teaching either.)
3) Another way I met one of my best Tweeps was when another recommended me to read his book. I did. Then we got chatting about accents, REM and The Smiths. Get me chatting about awesome bands and well, the rest as they say is history.
4) Another great way I have found fellow interactees is via comments on my blogs or via me reading other’s blogs. Since discovering #MondayBlogs – the brainchild of the fantastic Rachel Thompson (@rachelintheoc ) the number of people visiting my blog has increased a lot. I think this has helped people get to know me better than Twitter alone might allow. I could be wrong but I know it has certainly led me to tweeting more with others on there once I’ve read their blogs. So yeah, blogs are a good way in.
5) Doing the old hashtag thing has got me tweeting with people too, but these have usually been fleeting Twitter relationships. Some endure. Some don’t. But they are a way into conversation and interaction.
6) Another major way I’ve got interacting with others though is simply from others dropping in to a conversation. Sometimes it can seem obtrusive when someone does that, and I’m always careful if I do it to ask first hand whether it’s okay. But mostly the Tweeps who have done that with my conversations have all being great to interact with. The internet (world) is full of weirdos I believe, but thankfully I’ve come across very few so far!
7) However the one thing above all else which has led to me having such a great writerly support group is the phenomenon that is Friday Phrases, as mentioned in my last entry. Set up by the wonderful Amy Good (@amicgood), writers tweet short stories, poems and the like in under 140 characters with the hastag FP attached and this is how I’ve met some great people. Simply by retweeting and commenting on their phrases. Many have been kind enough to do the same and through it, I feel like finally I have found a group of people who are just there simply to be as supportive as possible to other writers and understand this thing we’re all doing so completely.
So I’ve found all these great people. I cannot actually believe I have over 600 people following me. How bloody bizarre is that? Over 600 total strangers (and that’s nothing apparently by Twitter standards). When it got to 200 I got scared. I’m also scared to follow too many for fear of not been able to keep up with everyone! Although, saying that I have lists which help me to keep up with the people I interact with most. So er…if you think I’m stalking you, yes I probably am! 😉 Anyway the numbers thing… hmmmm I have some views.
‘Are you following me, ‘cos I’m following you?’
I’ve never been a quantity over quality kind of person. (Strange, you might say, for one so verbose!) I don’t befriend every person I meet on the street so why should I do it on social media? I didn’t do it on Facebook. In fact I often get friend requests I ignore. These are usually from work colleagues but I have a strict rule about mixing work/pleasure these days. They probably get offended, but I figure that’s their problem more than mine. For me it’s the same on Twitter. I don’t seek to get as many followers as I possibly can or follow millions of people. I work on recommendation or if someone follows me, I check out their bio and if I feel they are interesting enough, seem likely to interact, then they get a follow back. I’m not offended if I follow someone and they don’t follow me back. I don’t get this ‘just unfollow’ app thing (though I’m sure it must have its uses and merits). In all honesty I couldn’t care less if X number of people follow me and X number unfollow me this week. So what? Imagine in real life if we did this? “Oh this week, 5 people started stalking me but , can you believe it, 9 stopped?! I mean I don’t know what I did to offend them.” (Of everything I’ve written I can imagine this getting me some rough feedback and perhaps an unfollow or 10 because I know many Twitter users are trying to build readership so it’s fair enough, but I find it amusing and it’s not for me.) I think I made it plain in Part 1 that I don’t really know my initial motivations for joining Twitter but I sure as hell know why I stay. For the great people I have met and the conversation and interaction I have with a small proportion of my followers not so I can boast numbers. In all honesty out of 600 followers how many do actually interact? 50 maybe? I don’t know. Now I’m not berating this. If you had 600 friends in ‘real life’ you’d only ever be able to catch up with them maybe once every 5 years. So I’m not going to take offence if people don’t interact with me. Furthermore we simply can’t get on with EVERYBODY. It’s impossible.
One thing I personally really don’t get though is the people who follow someone expecting an automatic follow back only to either spam you with Direct Meassages inviting you to their Facebook page or tweeting never-ending links to Amazon and quotes about their book. (Yes dear writer follower I am talking about you. Feel free to unfollow any time. I was never popular at school, so like I care now at 38 what a stranger thinks.) Here’s my own experience of buying from other Twitter writers: I have bought 4 books as a direct result of Twitter. Not one of them was because the author tweeted constant links. One, the most well known, was from an actually traditionally published author called ‘The Humans’ and then ‘The Radleys’ both by Matt Haig who I have blogged about the wonders of before. I bought his book because his tweets showed him as a person. A real live person with thoughts and feelings and everything. I enjoyed his tweets so I had the feeling I’d enjoy his work. I was not disappointed.
Another was a recommendation from a fellow Tweep on behalf of another of my Tweeps but again by that stage I’d got to know him on Twitter a little and I liked what he had to say and his style and so I bought his book. This has happened with two more writers. Writers whose tweets made them human as oppose to automated robots who just post links all day to their book. SNORE. But then I believe writers should not be looking necessarily for other writers to buy their books. I hate to be blunt but I’m not gong to buy your YA novel because, well, I’m not 16 . No biggy. Equally I’m unlikely to buy your zombie epic, your romance novel, steampunk – dystopian – wotsit or your bondage erotic trilogy because they’re just not my bag. No matter how well written/researched etc…And like I’ve said before, I won’t expect you to buy my Middle Grade fantasy adventure. Unless that’s what you’re into of course.
This is turning to a rant isn’t it? Sorry. Where was I? Oh yes the greatness of Twitter.
This Used To be My Playground
Here’s the thing. In my mind, Twitter is no different really to ‘real life’ social networks. Not really, if you analyse it. I liken it to my old school days. Here’s how I think it works.
1) First there’s your Twitter family. The hard-core group who somehow got thrown together in the big bang of life and you’re still not sure how. The family unit you can always depend on and go to when in trouble and who will jump to your defence when someone on the playground isn’t playing nicely.
2)Then there’s the cool gang. The ones you’ll never be ‘in’ with because well they’re just too cool enough for skool. BUT it seems on Twitter even some of the cool kids talk to me. (Though I bet they don’t think they are as cool as I think they are.) I say only some of them, not all of them, because you know a few REALLY are too cool.
3)There are the casual acquaintances who flit in and out occasionally and pass by on the corridor just stopping briefly to acknowledge your existence. They might favourite or retweet your tweets occasionally but no commitment.
4) Not to forget the fun friends – not the serious friends – not the ones you pour your heart out to when you’re being dumped, No, the fun friends are the ones who you meet for a sneaky drink and a game of pool down the pub after hours. On Twitter they pop up more frequently than most and you talk about daft stuff like films and what the postman had for tea. That sort of thing.
5) As in all good schools, there are the professionals – the teachers. The ones who only tweet about writing. These Tweeps are invaluable to give you much-needed advice when you require it. Some are even there with a helping hand when you don’t require it. Teacher’s hey?
6) Of course there are the Twitter crushes. (oh yes, you know you all have them; admit it!) The guy/girl at school you’d love a date with if only they’d notice you. *Sigh. Those elusive Tweeps (possibly famous) who you just think are the bees knees and a small flutter knots in your belly whenever they favourite your tweet or (*screams) actually reply to one! Those Tweeps you dream of meeting, but God, you’d be too embarrassed to actually speak to them and would stutter and stumble over your words if ever they asked you out.
7) And last but by no means least, we have the inner circle. Those close friends with whom you conspire with about the world. The ones who you regularly Direct Message. Not to spam them but because they’re the best ones to chat with and they feel like your best friends on this old Twitter. For me currently there are four stalwarts (pretty sure that’s more than I ever had at school) and they will know who they are from the fact they know I DM them. They are great people and very supportive of my writing without being false or “schmoozey.” There’s that word again. They are all great. Everyone has their own and they are the rare diamonds who you’ve found and gel with better than anyone else in your chemistry class.
I do often think it’d be awesome to meet some of my Twitter friends out here in the ‘real’ world, as to find people you have writing in common with is rare. Or in my case non existent. I know absolutely no one in my world who writes and so it’s just not a conversation I can have. Also the people I speak to on Twitter are often so funny and entertaining I can’t help but think we’d have a great night down at the pub having a drink or two. On the other hand, I do think if any of us actually did meet up it may and up being a little like a denouement scene from a murder mystery! We’d probably all be really awkward around each other, highly suspicious and end up talking in monosyllables as most of us are introverts who hide behind a computer screen or inside the stories we’re writing. I for one do not cope too well with any more than two people at a time. Actually I’m a bit like this on Twitter. If too many people enter a conversation I back out. It becomes overwhelming. Another example of how Twitter really is quite similar to ‘real’ life.
A Change Will do You Good?
The one thing I will say about Twitter is it has changed the landscape of my writing in two ways. In one way I am not too happy about it, as being on Twitter has shifted the focus of my writing away a little from my trilogy in progress as I start to dip into other things like short stories. (Most people start with short stories/novellas and build up to the novel. Not me, Miss Naive charges in with an epic fantasy trilogy and then works backwards.) It’s also seen me get involved in writing a novel with 8 other writers. A mad cap, probably drunken idea whereby we write a few paragraphs in turn before e mailing on to the next person. Fun, but totally mad!Great for further expanding and practising my skills but taking me away from my WIP. A double edged sword.
However despite this shift in focus, there is a definite up side and that is: the writers I have met on Twitter have given me the confidence to develop more in terms of stretching my creativity. Friday Phrases has been instrumental in this. Some of the writers I’ve met have done no end of good in helping me continue on the journey and have a bit more self belief in what I’m trying to achieve. Don’t get me wrong, the opposite happens too. I look at some writers and am so in awe of what they can do with words I just die inside a little every time I read their work and I want to give up. I often feel like an extremely inadequate writer, a total faker at it. But I also have many people giving me faith in myself that sometimes I don’t know what to do with all the compliments. Twitter has the capacity to make me feel equally stupid and equally clever at times. Writers come across as incredibly knowledgeable and I can feel sadly lacking. Then there are the odd educationalists I’ve come across and they talk so eloquently about educational issues whereas I just rant, I wonder whether I should be teaching either.
All You Need is Love
Now, finally I must point out on the issue of compliments. I am not one for dishing out false praise or schmoozing others. I think sometimes some of this can go on on Twitter but I can’t say I partake in such games and I’m usually pretty good at spotting people who are trying to schmooze. I can read people pretty well, although the goalposts shift slightly with Twitter because there’s no body language to go by. I’m one of those people whose face will speak a thousand words and you will know what I’m thinking instantly from my expression. It’s a blessing and a curse of life. But, as my avatar only has one expression (i.e me gurning like a demented happy person, NOT my everyday look,) it would be difficult for Tweeps to read me. So I am as honest on Twitter as I am in real life. In ‘real’ life if I can’t be bothered with a person, for whatever reason, I won’t. If I like you, you will know. If you schmooze me on Twitter, I won’t necessarily schmooze back. I’ll be polite but I won’t stroke your ego just for the sake of it and I don’t expect anyone to stroke mine. I’m not saying it’s not nice for people to pay genuine or sincere compliments because of course it is. (Though lately in real life I’ve had a very bad experience of being built up, placed on a pedestal, only to realise not everything which passes from another’s lips is either sincere or lasting, so I’m wary of compliments in general.) So what I’m saying is, if I pay you a compliment on Twitter it is genuine and I hope the same applies back. As far as I’m concerned, if I like you, if I like your writing or your tweets you will know because I will say and I will extol it to all. I do not favourite tweets or retweet for the sake of it. I hope others don’t do that for me. If you sincerely like what I write/tweet great. Say so. I’ll be chuffed to pieces. If you’re doing it in the hope I’ll stroke your ego back or like your stuff, well like I say I won’t play that game. But I don’t believe many people do do this which is why, up until now, I have had a great experience on Twitter.
So a year on…
Right, I think it’s time I drew this ramble to a close and summarise:
1) Twitter’s great but I’m using it as a substitute social life which is good and bad in equal measure. It has made me more reclusive yet I’ve met some great people to chat to.
2)The writing community on Twitter is the best and I would recommend you follow writers on Twitter because they are ace and you might also find one whose book you want to read. Bonus.
3) Twitter scares and delights me in equal measure. Too many people all at once overwhelms me, too few and I wonder if anyone could care less and paranoia creeps in. So much for escaping reality.
4) I get a mega boost to my self-esteem at times as some people seem to genuine like my writing which I still find really weird. At other times I still feel like the odd ball in the corner whist the cool people chat about stuff I have no idea of. Oh not to mention all the stunningly attractive people on Twitter whose avatars just shout confidence, creativity and sexiness whilst me… well let’s just say cameras and me will never be friends.
Would I recommend Twitter? Absolutely. It’s a fantastic way of meeting like-minded people across the world to chat with. Even if only through cyber space. I’m meeting new and interesting people all the time.
Ultimately I believe Twitter is a place where I do belong. At least for now. I think I have finally come to realise that friendships are often fleeting and usually occur more as a result of circumstance than much else. I’m pretty sure Twitter relationships are no different. I’d like to believe otherwise – you know that all friendships were deep and built to last. However, all good things have a habit of coming to an end, so perhaps I’ll just enjoy the ride and friendships whilst they last.
If you’ve manged to make it all the way to the end of this ramble around my brain, well firstly congratulations! You have better concentration and staying power than I.
Secondly thanks for reading as always. You are more appreciated than you know 🙂