Thursday, 23 October 2014

A Year on Twitter: Looking Back

I joined Twitter in October 2013.

At the start of October 2014, I notched up my 1000th tweet.

Of all the forms of social media out there, Twitter was one of the few that had intrigued me. But I hadn't done anything more than look around vaguely and remotely. Until...

There were two things which propelled me into the big, unfamiliar Tweetosphere:
1) I'd finally started my daily photo blog, AMIAM, and was finding my feet with establishing an online presence.
2) More importantly, the October 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires.

As an aside, the bushfires were, quite frankly, extremely frightening. There were some devastating consequences for some Blue Mountains folk, some of whom are still on a very long and slow road to recovery. We were lucky. But the threats for us were very real. I interrupted my first month's blog theme to jot down my impressions of the bushfires as they ravaged the Mountains over the course of the 8 days when the danger was at its highest.

The fear of what the bushfires might do meant that we were glued to the TV, radio and web for all the updates we could get. That was when I realised that the NSW RFS (New South Wales Rural Fire Service - nerve central for fighting the fires, coordinating efforts and providing up-to-date information) was on Twitter. Their most up-to-the-minute info was going out on Twitter first.

That was when and why I finally, actually signed up to Twitter. So yes, I can honestly, genuinely say that bushfires are the reason I joined Twitter!!

(A year later to the date, and the Blue Mountains have been hit again, this time with snow! But that's another story).

But at the time, I knew nothing about social media of any kind, so everything about Twitter was unfamiliar. 

I learnt everything one step at a time. 

I discovered I needed a profile description to accompany my profile pic: I managed to craft something pretty, pithy yet brief that I could live with. 

I discovered the multi-purpose uses of the "favourites" star button:
- when you appreciate someone's tweet
- as a reference/reading list
- as a form of politeness - the twitter equivalent of smiling at a remark before adding your own. 

I discovered the first favourite I'd ever received days later, by complete accident, when I tapped the "Connect" button on the Twitter app wondering what it was for. (Answer: any personal connections that happen to you on Twitter - follows, favourites, retweets (RTs), comments addressed to you... All get collected here). 

I learnt to navigate the politics of following and unfollowing. And now have a pretty basic guideline. Am I interested in what the person has to say? And/or are their interests aligned with mine in some way? Is there too much redundant noise in their tweets?

I learnt that you can turn off people's retweets. This was an extremely important discovery. Some folk have interesting stuff to say but they also seem to RT everything in swamping avalanches of random guff, without any kind of connecting thread. Solution: filter out the guff!  

I didn't have to learn to ignore DMs (direct messages). 

Although I learnt about the basic protocols of Twitter, but the whole 'what-to-tweet' and 'why-tweet-at-all' bits still evaded me. 

It felt a little bit like standing on the very edge of a massive crowd, where everyone is part of an intensive yelling conversation  (not necessarily with anyone else!) - in another language. While your little piped-up comment get instantly swallowed by the noise. 

And then. 

And then...

I discovered Twitter micro-fiction and poetry platforms and prompt games! I found a group of folk who write, who love words and who share their time, energies and creations. 

I had found a group of conversations I could understand and follow along and want to be a part of. I had found a little bit of Twitter that made sense to me and in which I wanted to loiter. 

First, I discovered Friday Phrases (@FridayPhrases) created by Amy Good (@amicgood) - an absolutely delightful community, which gathers every Friday with an optional theme to hand, to create, share, exclaim over and re-tweet micro-fiction stories. 

Squeeze a story, setting, emotion, pathos, twist... All in 140 characters! Oh yes! It is possible! Not by me, not yet. I'm still working on it. I will rhapsodise about Friday Phrases in a full, separate post. But suffice to say, I stumbled across it. Began following people, and the next week, started shyly contributing my own. I got some nice comments, a few stars for some of my efforts, and was repeatedly amazed by the gems created. 

I was hooked. 

Then I discovered daily (micro)poetry and very short story (vss) prompts. These daily prompts suggest a word or phrase, with the challenge being to weave a little something around that phrase, as well as seeing and admiring what others can create. In particular, I like to play with the prompts from HeartSoup (@HeartSoupPoems), moderated by Delia Devry (@DeliaDevry), and FieryVerse (@fieryverse), moderated by Nina Loard (@TheSkyeTrilogy). The poetry and word plays which come through are often jaw-droppingly lovely and completely inspiring!!

There are many others - poetry, haikus, story prompts... but for whatever reason, I have my regulars haunts and that is enough for me for now. 

And with these discoveries, my Twitter world became complete. I didn't need it for anything else! 

For someone like me, whose tendency towards writing/ over-writing/ angsting/ polishing/ re-writing means that even a scribble on a post-it note turns into an epic novel - along with crippling expectations of the finished product before I've even put pen to paper, the uncompromising 140-character twitter limit has provided refreshing limits and freedom in which to play!! 

Get your idea, imagery, sentiment down and this is the limited, inflexible space in which you have to write it. Drop your expectations; Go! 

And off I went. 

It is a great creative tool, to just play outside your usual orthodox avenues of thought. And to invite people to sample the samples of worlds you can create. 

The beauty is that you can't overthink or overcook such a small piece of fiction. It's small, it's stand-alone (mostly), and it can't take forever to write. 

Perfectionism gets dumped unceremoniously in the ditch while you just try and squish your whole idea into your available character limit. Actually, take the time to snicker at the sight of your perfectionist streak scrabbling helplessly in mud. It doesn't happen half as often as it should!!

I've found my raison d'ĂȘtre on Twitter, and have now developed a lovely little collection of snippet-stories that I can either leave to glitter in the Twitter night sky, and/or that I can eventually work up into something larger...

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