I stumbled into Twitter at a unique moment in my career. I’d lived overseas, returned to my small home town and switched careers. I was a couple of years into working in educational technology, and I was at my first tech conference in the US.
Twitter had been around, but I wasn’t on it. I barely understood the point. But everyone at that conference was on it, and very active users. They were live tweeting the event – capturing each speaker’s wisdom on stage in neat packages of 140 characters. And instead of having to take notes, I could favourite them and collect notes in an entirely new way.
I met and saw some fantastic people at the conference and on that trip – and I followed them. And I stayed connected to them even after I returned to my antipodean home.
There was no tech community in Wagga Wagga. There was no edtech or multimedia or professional connections in my home town. Even within the university, only two of us shared the same position – and we lived 4.5 hours away from each other.
Twitter stepped in as a way to connect. It bridged the geographical gulf between my “others” and where I lived.
The public nature of Twitter meant I could find and connect with people all over the world. It pulled me into blogs and conversations that I would and could not be able to be part of. I was lucky to transform loose connections on the Birdsite into real-life connections through travel. People I’d only ever tweeted with and conversed through comments became people I had a beer with or shared a meal with. Running into Alan Levine on the street in Davidson, North Carolina and being able to recognise each other despite us both being a long way from home was one of the most surreal moments in my life.
Twitter represented connection. It helped sustain me professionally while living in a place as isolated as I was. It was the same during the pandemic; it helped maintain relationships while we all remained stuck and isolated.
Twitter became a source of knowledge and experiences I could never replicate in the real world. It gave me opportunities to learn, gain perspective and introduce me to new ideas I don’t believe I could have attained another way.
But it was also a space that became scarred. The brutality and bullying were never my experience, but I watched it play out over and over. I watched friends be hounded and silenced and forced to walk away. I watched the experience of many others change and become more negative. It weighed heavily on me that the platform I loved could be such a different experience for others. I watched others forced off and lost those connections. They were weak ties – just a follow, but each person gave me something and left an imprint that would be difficult for them to see. I was always shocked at how profound some engagements could be through 140 characters.
The platform lost its magic a while ago, and it’s now out of habit to be there. It’s filled up with hate and negativity that seems to be carried by the philosophy and mentality of
I’ve watched the space that was one of connection and hope and inspiration disintegrate into sand over the last few years. And this week, I’ve been watching sand slip between my fingers.