My initial tweets sounded like when I tried to sell my used Fiat 124 Coupe 5-speed.
Please buy my car; please buy my book.
Well, at least I was polite.
As a Tweeter-newbie, I wanted to keep up so badly that my self-induced social media anxiety seeped through every 140 or less characters.
I assumed everyone else knew what they were doing—an old entrenched pattern. Years back I had believed the guy at Vitamin World with the bar through his nose and fifteen tats who told me that extracted milk thistle with a pinch of valerian root would help insomnia. I eventually realized that another person’s view isn’t always correct especially when it comes to writing, marketing, insomnia and even Twitter.
“Stop,” I said my Alexander Technique training as soon as I realized I had included the link to my website for the last twenty tweets. “Chill out. You’re never going to have 3.6 million followers like Beyoncé.”
I began to follow people and accepted everyone who asked to follow me. Eventually, I blocked anyone who used the Arabic alphabet or any reference to Jesus. I learned about retweets, favoring tweets and hash tags. As I became educated on Twitter good behavior, my learning curve expanded from pushing my book to becoming aware of my own reaction when I read someone else’s self-promoting tweets and shares. I had been guilty of the same obnoxious behavior—promoting myself versus developing relationships.
With my newfound awareness, I moved from being petrified of Twitter to having fun. I posted a link to an article on the shortage of escargot in France, favorited someone’s photo of Mt.Tamalpais at dawn, and become involved in a multi-tweet conversation, “Eating raisins before bed helps you not get up to pee in the middle of the night #bedtimeraisins.”
Based on some of the people I was following, I read about a Marin Tweet Up. Since I didn’t want to seem like a complete Twitter ignoramus, I didn’t ask what that meant, assuming a Tweet Up meant a group of people who met at a local cafe, and sat around tweeting to each other even though everyone was in the same room.
While I still didn’t know what a Tweet Up was, over the next few weeks I followed issues, causes and people and developed virtual relationships that expanded from Twitter to Facebook and eventually to real life (IRL).
One day as I stood in line at Table Cafe in Larkspur, I glanced at two women having lunch, one of whom looked familiar, but I couldn’t place. As I ordered a Caesar salad—hold the croutons—I mentally shuffled through my obsolete rolodex, ruling out people from tennis, karate, exercise class, or the bike path. Then, it registered. I recognized @alembic— from her avatar.
We made eye contact—@alembic had also recognized me. In the virtual world of favoriting tweets, liking Facebook posts, and giving a “thumbs up” to a LinkedIn update, I had met someone in the real word through the meshing of connections and serendipity. She and I already had a sense of each others’ personalities through our tweets, posts and comments. I walked to @alembic’s table.
“Maria?” I asked.
She nodded. “Wendy?”
It’s great to meet you in person,” I said.
“I’d love to have lunch sometime,” I said. “I’ll send you a DM on Twitter or PM on Facebook.
Three weeks later we sat around the table talking in complete sentences, instead of 140 or less characters. I had to ask @alembic something that I couldn’t shake.
“What’s a Tweet Up?”
She laughed. “It’s a social event where people who know each other through Twitter get together at a local restaurant. I’ll let you know the date of the next one.”
At the next Tweet Up I met people whom I had initially met in the virtual world. Many of them looked like their avatars with the exception of one woman who uses an avatar of her dog. I expanded my network and developed relationships.
I haven’t convinced my husband to do the same. He says he has no interest in Twitter or Facebook except when he looks over my shoulder and says, “Who’s that?”
“You don’t know him. Maybe you should try Twitter,” I said. “You never know who you might meet.”