Saturday, October 17, 2009

loving strangers—an ode to twitter

Thursday night I spent over 2 hours on the phone with a total stranger. Well, not a total stranger—we'd been exchanging tweets (140 or less character posts on twitter) for a couple of months. She's a PR person and gave of her knowledge, expertise, and time with thoughtful generosity. I was blown away. From these mini-exchanges we'd become cyber friends and here she was, helping me out with no hidden agenda, no secret sales pitch, just sharing advice as a great friend in the know. She's been following my FLOW plugs, rants, panic and sent me her phone number, with the offer to talk it through with me. @scout66com is an angel—this is just one thank you honey!

It's hard to explain twitter to people not using it. The initial concept is simple. You follow people, they follow you. That is, if they choose to. You can amass thousands of followers while only following a few back (I follow the whale at the Natural History Museum but it's not mutual). There are tons of spammers out there—followers and posters selling ways to make money at home, business opportunities, porn. With every new follower I get, a porn link shows up on my follow list. They all have the same graphic photo and mention Britney Spears. Twitter is a universe to entrepeneurs (many of whom I can't figure out exactly what it is they do) life coaches, health motivators, bloggers, marketers, spiritual gurus, celebrities, people at home with time on their hands. There's inspiration, edgy humor, witty banter—I spent one night last week coming up with names for a FLOW inspired nail polish line. It was brilliant.

It's a total time suck, as statements, questions, links by strangers fly by on a post wall that changes every second. I can go days without seeing tiny yet familiar photos and I suppose it's not that those people aren't online, it's just hard to keep track in the deluge of information. And how do you choose who to be "friends" with? You see a miniscule photo (my favorite at the moment: a strange swirling brown abstract mass that when you blow up is a female torso baked from bread with cinnamon decorations (@BluePomGirl, one of my favorites). You can chat back and forth for a few days and then the person disappears forever. You can become friends on facebook, exchange emails, talk on the phone. I "met" @SusanPowers the other day, truly one of the nicest, most talented women I've come across. She's a raw food guru, working on a book proposal and I'll do whatever I can to help her.

There are bunches of interesting, thought-provoking, witty folks I'm happy to follow who delight me when they write back. And then, there's @scottfaithfull. I've had a crush on his avatar for month. He is a talented photographer, master personal marketer, and has taken FLOW (and me) under his wing. We both starred in a promo video he made a couple of weeks ago. And the postcard he sent of one of his beautiful photographs is hanging by my computer.

My family thinks I'm nuts, to spend time typing to strangers, keeping tabs on people I don't know. But what's "knowing" someone about these days? Technological communication has changed the world in dramatic ways. The people you "know" most can be ones you've never met.

That's it. Day 19 and I'm almost halfway done.


Rebecca Elia said...

My family thinks I'm totally nuts too--but if I listened to them, I would have never connected with you. Nor would I be flying across the country next week to visit @ThyroidMary! What a wonderful surprise, Twitter!

Elissa Stein said...

How fabulous! And you are one of my favorites . . . you save me during my middle of the night sleepless fests! xoxo

Mary Shomon said...

It's hard to explain, but amongst the thousands of people you connect with via Twitter, there are people who genuinely become dear friends and colleagues. As Rebecca said, it's a wonderful surprise! I now count Rebecca among my dear friends -- as well as the amazing Katie Schwartz from DearThyroid (@dearthyroid / @katieschwartz)And Elissa, I wouldn't have started to get to know you or about your book Flow if not for Twitter! And I can't wait to get up to NY, so you and I can do some dishing in person too!! In the end, I think we convert that small percentage of Twitter friends into lifelong in-person friends by adding personal emails, phone calls and in-person contact!

Kathleen said...

Elissa --
I read your blog b/c @GirlsSentAway recommended it, so I don't know you at all, but I very much agree with what you've said here. Especially #1 I've "met" some interesting, nice, helpful, funny people #2I've learned a lot about a wide range of topics and people and #3 people who don't tweet, don't get it at all.
Thanks for your post! I'm following you now -- soon I'll even know what Flow is..