When I tell people that I use Twitter, they either get a glazed look in their eyes or look at me like I am crazy. They imagine me sitting on my couch, tweeting things like “Oh, my cat just crawled on my lap, how cute” or “today I am going to have pizza for dinner” or even “boy, do I have to go to the bathroom. Don’t worry, I’ll take you with me.” To be honest, I felt the same when I first signed up for work.
You see, Twitter was supposed to be a way to develop my own PLN a.k.a. a professional learning network (education loves acronyms). I was going to follow a million, kabillion master teachers and bask in the glory of their tweets. Through this network, I was going to strengthen my professional life and become the best teacher I could ever be. Go me!
I followed teachers, then I followed teachers they followed, and then I sat and waited. And waited. I tried following one of the many edchats that occur regularly but, as a twitter noob, they went so fast and I couldn’t understand what they were talking about. I tried to read every single comment and was quickly overwhelmed. This was not a good thing for me. I unfollowed almost everyone and stopped checking my twitter account. I did not see the use of it.
Move forward a couple of months. I decided to try it again. This time I didn’t follow any teachers. I started following celebrities– Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer. Through them I discovered the Bloggess. It wasn’t so bad to lurk all over them. They had so many followers that my silent stalking would go unnoticed. Then I realized that they were REAL people. Granted, I squee whenever one of them RTs me or even remotely recognizes that I am alive. In fact, following these wonderful people actually helped me get supplies for my classroom. I wrote a post about it if you want to see it. Thus began my education in the way Twitter works. Understanding how to use it has changed my life.
You see, because of my feelings of social awkwardness, I find it difficult to talk to other people. I always feel imperfect and judged and stuff. It is not comfortable for me in social situations. This severely limits the number of friends that I have made. Twitter was a place where I could be myself without having to be near someone. I could interact with people and not have to worry about them judging me or, if they did, they would be able to just unfollow me. After all, they weren’t REALLY people.
The thing is, as I learned more about using social media, I realized that I can truly create friendships with other people. When I first started blogging, my friend Amy at Lucy’s Football gave me the encouragement I needed to continue. When I couldn’t write or tweet because I was having extreme anxiety, she was not upset with me when I cam back. Instead, she acted as if I had never disappeared. I don’t recall ever feeling that sort of acceptance from any person not in my close family.
Through my contact with Amy, I learned that people aren’t going to hate me if I go away for a bit. They will also remember me when I come back. If they don’t, meh, who cares. Through this interaction with others, I was able to gain confidence in my friend-making abilities. I have been putting myself out there and cultivating the itty bitty buds of friendship IN REAL LIFE! I’m still a bit skittish about trying to meet new people, but I’m getting better. In fact, one of the real life friendships I’ve developed over the year has made me so happy. In Jen, I have found a friend who is not demanding but still likes to spend time with me. She’s a wonderful person who gets my fears and feelings of ineptitude about friendship. And she *doesn’t* care. We have fun when we are together; sometimes I forget to breathe because I’m laughing so hard. This might not have occurred if I hadn’t learned how to be a friend through Twitter.
Geez, this is long. It was much simpler in my head when I started organizing. Bear with me, you guys!
Last week, I had to go to a retinal specialist. My eye doctor thought that I might be on the verge of a detachment. That is some scary ish, I’m not gonna lie. I went straight to my Twitter family and asked them whether or not they’d experienced a retinal detachment. Even though none of them had, they immediately offered me support. My friends were there when I needed them. People think that friendships made through social media aren’t real. I know that they are.
So, thanks to Danielle, Megan, Amy, and Bridget for taking the time to be there for me when I really needed you. Thank you, Jen, for making the time to take me to the retinal specialist so I didn’t have to go on my own. You have all touched my life in such a positive way.
You guys deserve a sunshine award.