Some years ago, I took part in a live radio discussion, where one of the other participants was attempting to advance the idea that relationships with people that originated on social media were unreal, as opposed to those which originate “in the real world”.
It’s why I refer, somewhat ironically, in my own Twitter feed to “in the real world”, meaning the physical world, as opposed to the ethereal and nebulous world of the internet, where people with nefarious intention can hide behind their computer screen. Once again I found myself in a BBC studio, this time rather than to have a moan about highways, but because the radio presenter thought I had an example of a good local Twitter account. Prolific, for sure: 109,000 over five years. Whether it’s good, entertaining, informative or insightful or not is, of course, in the eye of the beholder.
Although, paradoxically, between one hundred and two hundred people travel through my taxi in the real world every week, working the night shift as a taxi driver in a small provincial English town can be a lonely existence, devoid of life enhancing interaction with other human beings. Most of the time is spent waiting, rather than driving. Twitter is ideal as a medium, for human contact in short bursts of interaction, in between actual work.
We’re all social media gurus these days. I am not one for evaluating its potential for my small Abingdon business in terms of numbers of followers – those signed up to receive my tweets. In a small article on Twitter protocols on my web site I state: “Most of those I'm following are people with whom there's been some level of conversational interaction these last six years.”
Many of these are located in overseas jurisdictions, especially in the United States, where they are still awake, during the long dark hours of the night, long after compatriots have disappeared off the timeline.
On my web site I write that “it's always been the policy on this Twitter feed to reflect life in all its God given reality” and thus it is, so I usually tweet a language warning before my self imposed watershed, mostly for the advice of overseas readers, where it is still the afternoon. “After 2200 British Summer Time on Friday and Saturday nights, there can sometimes be reportage of bad language and bad behaviour.” Sometimes on Twitter, where grammar is less stringent, I might also throw in the occasional American English spelling, as a mark of respect to them. I am sure they don’t even notice.
These people have enhanced my life enormously, provided information, encouragement and support, without even knowing it.
For me, it’s more about the quality of the relationships than actual numbers. Many of those souls I have met initially on Twitter have been human beings of the highest calibre. They have enhanced my life immeasurably with their creativity, friendship and once, astonishingly, even actual real world love.
As published in the Herald Series, Wednesday 25 May 2016