I recently offended a colleague by referring to her as a “Twitter friend”. You see, we first made contact with each other on Twitter (around a year ago, I tweeted her to tell her I’d just discovered her blog and loved it) and she has recently started working in the same office as me. I don’t think she was genuinely offended, more mock-offended for comedy value, but it got me thinking about Twitter and Twitter friends.
It’s mindblowingly amazing that since Twitter got huge here in the UK in 2009, the way we form friendships has changed so much. Before then, the norm on social platforms like Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Friends Reunited (remember that?) was to connect with people you already knew in real life. To begin with, I carried this practice over to Twitter and for months, I blocked strangers who followed me. (Actually cringing at the memory. I even blocked someone who has now become one of my favourite people to follow – Michael Hogan.)
But it’s really since becoming a mum that I’ve formed Twitter friendships. It started with just one or two – mums whose blogs I’d discovered and who were tweeting at 3am while I was awake with matchsticks propping open my eyelids, feeding my baby – and gradually, more followed me and I followed back. I don’t even remember how conversations started. Possibly by me just butting into a chat they were having with someone else, or by replying to a random tweet they’d sent out. Now, I can log on to Twitter and more often than not, catch up on what these friends are up to, and have a quick conversation with them.
I’ve never met most of these people. But I feel like I know them. I know when they’re going through tough times, or having a scary moment, or doing something really exciting or celebrating something or just watching a crap TV show and making witty comments. I know little details about their lives. For example, I know that Mummy Barrow likes to start the day with a cuppa. I know that Katie loves a bubble bath. I know that Aimee is excited about having written her first book. I know that Gill has the same buggy as the Beckhams. I know that Molly loves a Friday night wine. I know that Kelly has his’n’hers bathrooms. I know that Alice’s daughter likes to sleep in odd positions. I know that Charlotte loves Ryan Gosling.
It reminds me of that same nice feeling you’d get, as a kid, when a pen pal sent you a letter. Pen pals were ace. I scanned the pen pals section of Smash Hits every fortnight, working out whether each person would be a good friend-match for me. As a teenager, I wrote to other girls who were as obsessed with Take That and Boyzone as I was. We found each other through little handmade books called FBs (Friendship Books). Each book would be passed on from friend to friend, each person writing their name, address, which bands they liked (and usually boasting about how many times they’d met/hung out with/been to the pub with/been on tour bus with said-band). Books would be sent around the world, and then when they were full, they’d be sent back to the person who made it. It was social networking before the internet was widely used (around this same time, in my Computer Science class at school, my teacher was telling us about – imagine him doing inverted comma fingers – “electronic mail”).
With Twitter friends, you can dip in and out again, with no pressure. If you don’t log in for a few days, there are no passive aggressive messages from them about you being too busy for them. These people are pleased to see you when you’re there, but it’s no big deal if you’re not. If you’re having a bad day, a quick Twitter exchange with a friend can lift your mood or even just distract you from your problem. And I’m bloody nosy, so it’s fascinating to take a peek into other people’s everyday lives. I’d love to sit in the pub with them all one day (I expect it would look much like the scene below.)
So that colleague of mine, the one I described as a “Twitter friend” should know that it’s not a term I use lightly. I love my Twitter friends – they kick ass. But they should know that if they ever retweet The Notebook Of Love, I’ll have no qualms about unfollowing them. Joke! (Not joking.)
I so agree with you on this. So many people still don’t ‘get’ Twitter, but I think it’s the most incredible social network out there.
I love the sound of the friendship books! How wonderful!
I’m tempted to bring back Friendship Books. Should I?
Lovely, lovely post, when I started using twitter last year I never imagined it would lead to some great friendships that now have! In my experience I’ve found people are so lovely and kind you strike up a nice twitter friendship with them or you just get totally ignored by someone and they never tweet you back lol! Anyway my twitter friends have seen me through a dark time lately (just recently had a miscarriage) and that support has been phenomenal just have little tweets and messages to keep me going, they still check on me now, like you said those friendships are not taken lightly and I hope they will progress in to real life friendships too! X x x
Karen, I’m so sorry to hear about your miscarriage – it’s hard times that make you realise how much you rely on all friends (close-by friends and Twitter friends) to keep you going, isn’t it? Hugs x
Some of my Twitter friends have become really good “real life” friends. I’ll never forget meeting Jane (Northern Mum) for the first time in a cafe near where we both lived a couple of years ago. I was terrified – but now I count her as one of my closest pals! I love Twitter and I love the people I’ve come across through it, including you! (PS. Friday night wine? You know me so well.)
Woop to Friday night wine. I love meeting Twitter friends in real life. It’s always a bit scary (what if they are nothing like they seem on Twitter?) but usually fun. Meeting you, Mummy Barrow, Tamsyn, Sophie, Minty and co back in February was so much fun.
I love this post and agree with every word! Without my ‘twitter friends’ I doubt I would of remained half as sane as I did when Georgie was poorly. Do you mind if I write something on the same subject and link to you? I have an urge to publicly thank all my twitter friends in a soppy post! x
Of course not, Bryony. You have such a gorgeous blog.
Such a heartwarming post & it’s so true; what’s even better is when do you meet in real life & find those you click with online is the same in the real world!
True. I am looking forward to seeing lots of people at CybHer and BritMums Live. Are you going to either? x
Absolutely! I love my twitter friends – most I’ve never even met in actual life!
I didn’t do Internet dating so meeting people I’ve only met online is still new to me – After I first met you at one of our local tweet meets (only the second time I’d met online friends!) the next time I bumped into you at the local shops and I was with my husband – I’d introduced you as one of my friends from twitter – afterwards I’d filled in that you were also a fellow blogger! I felt that I knew you and I classed you as a friend even though we’d only actually met twice! It’s funny – I’d say in some way all twitter friends interact daily – even if its just reading a tweet without a conversation! I’d say some of my twitter friends are more “true” than some of my offline friends and I’ve even swapped phone numbers with one or two twitter friends for advice and conversations that need more than the tweet box allows!
Ha – I remember bumping into you in town. I’m surprised I haven’t seen you more often, actually. We should have regular local mums-from-the-internet meets 🙂
I love this so much!
Thank you Mostly 🙂 You are def one of my Twitter friends! x
Great post! Difficult to describe twitter pals to anyone who isn’t on there, they just don’t ‘get it ‘! Mind you I find that those very same people don’t ‘get’ blogging either – I’ve given up trying to justify my obsession – live and let live I say!
Too right. Those who get Twitter are on it. Everyone else? they’re just missing out!
I think it’s about time that I get on Twitter then!
Do it! You won’t regret it.
I think I speak to some of my twitter friends more than I speak to the bloke sometimes! I love the communities on twitter more than any other social network x
Ha! Me too, Bex. Twitter rocks.
Thanks for including me in your post Alison and I totally agree with you. At first I found it a bit weird that I spoke to random people I had never met on twitter- before blogging I had never really done the online thing of chatting to people you didn’t know- but twitter sucked me in and I do truly believe that some of my twitter friends know more about me than my real life friends. I don’t talk to my real life friends every day but I nearly always do with my twitter friends! It’s a funny old world that you can’t understand until you are in it.
And I totally did the penpal thing when I was younger- only I did it for Take That and 911! Which as I know you have got a signed CD- totally jealous! 😉 x
Be jealous, Katie! 😉
I find it funny that we met (briefly) back in September 2011 at the Gurgle Awards, and I didn’t even follow you on Twitter back then.
I admit to being quite suspicious of twitter when it first started and wondered why anyone would want to share any or every aspect of their lives with strangers. If I had joined it back then I’d probably have been quick with the block button too! It’s only since I joined twitter though that I really ‘get’ it. I really like the community feel with people who share similar likes/dislikes/viewpoints on the world (or not, there can be some good debates too). Friendships don’t have to be physical to work; like you say, it’s a more modern version of being penpals
Yes! I remember so many people saying to me “But why would you want to know what someone has had for breakfast?” when I mentioned Twitter to them. But it’s so much more than that!
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