Or: How Twitter changed the way I interact and share with people
Sidebar: This is a story written for friends that I can't connect to on Twitter,
which seriously handicaps the way I usually communicate.
I dedicate it to Guy, who may or may not decide to reveal his true identity.
I met Guy from Scotland this week. I kind of knew him before, although we never had the pleasure to be in the same place together before. Didn’t know he was Scottish, though…
I knew Guy from Twitter (this is a true story, and those who know him will recognise him, but let’s just call him Guy). We share a common area of interest, and we both use Twitter as a means of communicating extensively what we do, work-wise. So during the past year we exchanged thoughts, tips, links and we may even have answered each other’s questions, I don’t remember. Twitter is very much like the human brain in the way it forgets details but stores patterns.
So I knew Guy’s areas of expertise, some of his interests and whom he stayed in touch with—in work and privately. Just for comparison: That’s more than I know of most of my colleages at work and even of some of my real-world “friends”.
Sidebar: if Guy so chooses to publicly reveal his identity
in a comment or on Twitter, I'd be honoured.
All you others who know him, even if longer and better than I do,
please respect it to be his choice alone, if and when to do so.
I actually met Guy in person last Wednesday at a conference. But I learned more of him the night before—I explored a hotel piano bar with some blokes from the UK and US who actually knew him, had worked with him, and filled in more personal details. Guy uses a work title instead of is real name on Twitter (but he shares his real name as an additional information so I could look him up later and actually make the connection). So when these blokes talked about Guy, about the books he writes (which I haven’t read so far) and the input he gives to our community, I didn’t actually relate this to the person I already knew. They were making a little fun of the way he tweets from airports—but as I’m doing the same and hadn’t actually noticed this trait in him before, I didn’t recognize Guy (they were obviously using his real name) as the person I knew from Twitter. I checked his name later in my hotel room, made the connection and now had all these bits and pieces added to my knowledge of Guy: the things we shared on Twitter before, the details from the crowd in the bar plus his “fame”—because I actually had heard and read of Guy before very often. I just hadn’t connected this public Guy with the (equally public, but differently named) Twitter “friend” of mine.
Sidebar: Twitter (like Facebook and other "social media" sites) calls people you're connected to "friends",
which of course they usually aren't. I'll let you make the decision - just compare what I tell you about our
relationship to those between you and your real-world, "real" friends.
There was one (to me) especially special bit of information about Guy: he’s a Scotsman. I’ve been on holiday in Scotland last year, and I simply and whole-heartedly fell in love with the place. The scenery of the highlands, the hospitality of the people, all the typical (in fact all not-of-Scottish-origin, consult the QI General Book of Ignorance for details) things like bag pipes, kilts, whisky and haggis, the rough weather and the tumbler-toy-attitude of the people in the City of Glasgow resonated with me on more levels than I care to tell you in this story. One Scottish thing I actually can enjoy at home is the accent of the people, which I simply adore. I’m a Doctor Who addict, and to my pleasure the most important of the latest three Doctor incarnations was played by a Scottish actor, David Tennant. David has been such a revelation, I’ve become a huge fan of him, so the very first thing that striked me of Guy was his accent, which immediately made me think of David, the Doctor and the TARDIS.
Sidebar: if you don't know Doctor Who (or know it but haven't watched it), you missed the most influencial,
educational, generation-frightening, longest-running SF show of global TV history.
Douglas Adams started his career writing for Doctor Who, and if this is not enough reason for you to watch it,
you've come to the wrong blog.
In fact, this Scottish accent immediately drew me to the right table and to recognize him the next day—I didn’t know what he looked like as Twitter pics tend to be quite small.
I’ll sum up shorter what followed as this is about Twitter and not about my relationship to Guy. Similar things happen to me quite often since I use Twitter, Guy just serves as a perfect example because so many details intertwine.
We are of roughly the same age. We grew up in small towns in rather rural areas of our respective countries. We started programming computers in our mid-teens, and made a living of the passion we had for writing quality code. In fact, this passion of delivering value through the writing of code led both if us into leadership, consulting and coaching, so now we basically tell others how to write better software, increase the produced value and continually improve on these tasks and the fun doing it.
There’s more: Guy’s stance, height and way of leading conversations are so similar to an old friend of mine, that I connected on a much more personal level than I usually do at work-related conferences. Like me, he has a razor tounge which can cut through conversations to get to a point, and it’s like looking in a mirror when I see others (including me) be occasionally intimidated by his presence.
I’ve been physically in Guy’s presence for short bits of time, each a few minutes, over a period of two days. We shared thoughts and a beer, all in all it might sum up to about an hour of our time. One hour of time spent together and now, being this huge David Tennant fan, every time I’ll see David on TV, he’ll remind me of my new friend, Guy.
This is what Twitter does to your brain, your network and to the way you develop and explore personal relationships. This is why I am addicted, and I love it.