When I first started using Twitter, I was decidedly underwhelmed. I had no idea what all the fuss was about, and I wasn’t in any hurry to find out. My account lay dormant for long months at a time as I happily stayed away from the “Twitterverse.” It wasn’t that I didn’t see the potential of the medium, nor was I wary of social media in general. It had more to do with the fact that Twitter seemed like a complicated jigsaw puzzle, and I didn’t really want to put the work into finding all the edge pieces in order to start having fun putting it together.
Even now, a few years later, I still get lost from time to time trying to grasp the full possibilities of the medium. I’m by no means a “power user,” with just under 200 followers on my personal account (an unknown percentage of which are spam accounts), but I’ve now spent what I would call a good amount of quality time using Twitter, both for personal use and for work. During that time I’ve had a realization every now and then that reminds me of what this mysterious communication tool is capable of.
One of my first “aha” moments using Twitter happened pretty quickly after I decided to start putting some effort into it. I had started to follow some big name theorists in the field of career development, as well as some influential writers about the subject. Around the same time, I was doing some writing on this blog, and for the print version of Career Options magazine, on the Chaos Theory of Careers (CTC). After mentioning the article I wrote on Twitter, Jim Bright— arguably the man most responsible for developing and promoting the CTC—tweeted about my article. And it wasn’t even to say that I had gotten it all wrong!
So, one of my first Twitter-piphanies (that’s Twitter + epiphany… help me!) involved interactions with people that I would have had no chance to connect with otherwise.
As cool as that experience was, I’ve more recently had another kind of Twitter experience that I didn’t foresee back when I started: meeting Twitter users in person! This has happened to me twice in the last week or so, both times at work, and both times completely unexpectedly.
It sounds weird, but in meeting these people, there was a certain instant bond. The person who was once just a small square image and a bunch of lines of text before, is now standing and talking to you at an office Christmas party! How… human!
I thought for a while about why it was so refreshing to meet these people in real life, and I’m fairly sure it has to do with genuineness. These days it’s so easy to be inauthentic in an online medium, where the guise of anonymity is so present. Even in a situation where you know someone’s name and profile picture are the real thing, the sense of being removed from them remains in online interactions. While it’s easy to say that this is because we are removed from them in so many ways, the fact is that online communication such as that found on Twitter is only growing more prominent—and so we need to find ways to bridge the gap.
Now that I’ve met those aforementioned people, it’s as if something has been confirmed: they are real. There is actually a living, breathing human behind the screen that has been interacting with me this entire time. And that means something far more meaningful than a few re-tweets or mentions can ever describe.