I can understand why my friends aren't into social networking - they have busy lives and families.... and wives/partners to talk to. This made me think about why I was posting onto Facebook more than they were. I realised that being a single dad with a limited social life, I needed somewhere to air my thoughts, views and feelings and Facebook was about all there was available to me (I've never really ever thought about venturing into any chat rooms). But it was frustrating that nearly everyone I knew seemed to be uninterested or too busy (or maybe too embarrassed) to engage in the social networking world.
This was all before my time on Twitter, though I was aware of the term and the website. I recall Kate Russell on BBC's Click programme describing it as "a place where you can post messages about what you are doing" in her Webscape section in March 2008 (see). It appeared to be a simpler version of Facebook where you connected to your friends and you could read "tweets" to find out what each other was doing or thinking. At the time I remember wondering "what's the point of that?" and left it there as just another web curiosity.
Then on 15-January, 2009 news broke that an airplane had crashed landed on the Hudson River in New York. Thankfully no-one was seriously injured and though obviously distressing for them, all 155 passengers and crew were rescued safely. One part of this news item that struck me though was that some of the first reports and pictures of the crash came from Twitter via a witness on a ferry helping with the rescue. The twitterer was @jkrums (we still follow each other) and his pictures were posted onto Twitpic. (For a more complete report see this report on the Computerworld website.)
It seemed that something interesting was going on with the Internet and I immediately wanted to dip my toes in and find out more. I created my Twitter account two days later on 17-January though I mustn't have known what to say initially. Eventually I lost my Twitter "cherry" on 05-February with the rather boring tweet "I'm trying to decide whether to carry on ploughing through my emails, or whether I should start making tea" (moaning about domestic chores as always!) This was followed by a posting to Twitpic of the dusting of snow we'd just had with the sarcastic comment "Recent snow that brought the country to a grinding halt."
I those early days my account was in my own name and I even managed to find a few people I knew on Twitter, but like Facebook, they weren't particularly active. I then thought "to hell with it, I'm going to be a complete Twitter tart" and started to follow people who looked interesting and then randomly some of their followers and so on. I also used a few Twitter sites such as Monitter to find twitterers discussing topics I found interesting, and followed them. Some of these twitteres would follow me back, and slowly my base of followed/followers started to grow. A few weeks down the line (I'm not exactly sure when) I decided that to be able to express myself I needed to do two things - take on a name that made me anonymous and to shed the few real world friends still following me.
I continued to nurture my base of followed/followers - pruning out the ones who were there just to promote something, who had become inactive or where not on my wavelength and engaging with and getting to know real people tweeting about real things. As time went on I developed twitter-friendships with a number of people. Some have come and gone whilst others have become long time twitter-pals. Hopefully many will stay as my twitter-pals for a long time. And of course I continue "meeting" new people all the time. I now find my social network is a-buzz with people of all types and I can have a "chat" and bounce ideas, jokes, worries, news (in fact anything) with a wonderful circle or people almost any time of the day or night. If I have a problem or feeling a bit blue, there is usually someone with a kind word to offer or an ear to lend. I know this is not the same as having that some one special in my life, but its a good second best all the same.
I know it has taken a fair amount of effort to get to this point, but now I am, I feel it was well worth it.
Of course I still have my circle of real-world friends, mostly living in the neighbourhood, but I only see them "as and when". Even if I was the type of person to be calling in on people all the time (I'm not), it isn't so easy when you have three kids in your sole care. So in reality other than the odd chat in the school playground, I rarely get to talk to another adult, and even more rarely do I have the type of conversation where I can get things off my chest. This is assuming I would be able to air some of the issues and thoughts that are going on inside me to my real-world friends. But thankfully this is where Twitter comes in. Suddenly I can now rant and rave to my hearts content if that's the mood I'm in.
What would it be like if Twitter disappeared tomorrow? Of course it wouldn't be the end of the world, but I certainly would miss it and all of my twitter-pals out there. Thank God for Twitter is what I say!
Here are a few useful sites I've used in the past and present that are related to this blog:
http://howlonghaveyoubeentweeting.com/ (provides the date an account was created)
http://tweetake.com/ (extracts a snapshot of your Twitter data for you to download)
http://monitter.com/ (real time filter of tweets on your chosen search criteria)