Twitter is one of the latest tech toys to take the world by storm. With its A-list celebrities, politicians, musicians, actors and writers comprising only a small part of its 30 million users, we come from all walks of life. Columns in the daily newspapers list celebrity tweets, and companies advertise their twitter locations, breaking news is out as it happens on twitter’s trending topics.
As a writer, I initially joined Twitter as a means to get myself ‘out there’ and promote my work. Now, instead of using Twitter as a marketing tool, it has become an integral part of my daily routine. Twitter is my companion on the bus, on the train, and dare I mention it, in the loo. Sometimes I scurry into convenience stores, hide in dark corners, and visit strange washrooms not for a quick cigarette, or even a hit of a drug. My fix is to access Twitter, check to see if I have any new tweets or direct messages and find out what my tweeps are up to.
Since joining in March of 2009, I have amassed a following of over 830 people. This means every time I have something to tweet (text), 830 people can instantly read what I have to say on their conversation streams. I have flown home to Glasgow a couple of times since joining and met up with a handful of these Twitter friends in person and it was amazing. I have reached across the pond and cemented relationships with a group of warm, caring friends residing in my home town. Once, for a brief moment, I even thought I had found a very special tweep, but a relationship based on a 140 character dialogue is difficult to maintain at a distance — although you can witness the growing bonds of friendship and love unfolding on screen. I have seen relationships flourish into marriages and also seen marriages shatter. I have seen unwarranted meanness but also extraordinary generosity.
The minute I press that little blue icon on my phone, I feel like Norm walking through the door of Cheers every night to be greeted by friends who only exist outside the usual perimeters of his everyday life. Twitter is addictive; it keeps me coming back with the promise of more and more followers, the lure of multiple reply tweets, the thrilling secrets exposed in the underground world of DMs and the latest gossip from around the world – I knew Michael Jackson had died less than half an hour after the story broke.
The speed at which news travels on this social network makes my head spin. Thrown into the mix is the potential to hob knob, up close and personal, with celebrities all the way up to the President of the United States which was part of the initial draw for me. I got a buzz when I received a reply from Ryan Seacrest and conversed with Colin Kelly, one of Glasgow’s Clyde1 radio presenters, however, having one-sided conversations is very boring so I moved on and found delightful new friends.
With the opportunity to communicate with people from all over the world from my current home in Toronto, I have gravitated towards my fellow Glaswegians and now realize a virtual social life in Glasgow. I am in the know about the latest bars opening up. I watch ‘twitvids’ of my fellow ‘tweeps’ heading to work, for a night on the town, walking their dogs on the beach or shopping in the sales. I see photos of their newborn babies and sleepy pets. I listen to their complaints about the awful weather (oh my, how that brings back memories of a former life) and the antics of their co-workers. I hear about all the music festivals and events taking place. Now when I visit home, I make a point to fit in any tweet-ups that may be taking place.
The positive aspect of Twitter is that it enables me to take part in the everyday life of my family and friends in Glasgow without leaving Toronto: at home in two places at once. On the downside, Twitter has diminished my resolve to put more time and effort into my writing. I write every day, but not for my blog, or a magazine, or my novel. Twitter takes up my writing time and energy. Not only does it divert me, it also lays waste to my syntax, spelling, and grammar with such sentences as: “pmsl. U r 2 Gr8 a writer 2 giv up now. Start wrk on ur novel 2day b4 its 2 L8.” So instead of being the tool to promote my work as I’d originally envisioned, it has actually become the instrument that now endangers my work.
– Anna Graham