The Book Lady Rebecca Schinsky and I were sitting in Urban Farmhouse Market & Café in Shockhoe Slip. It’s her default answer to “Where would you like to meet?” (There could be some kickbacks involved.) I was getting novelist-to-be advice, taking notes, and out of the blue Rebecca said something extremely unpleasant.
“You’ll need to be on Twitter.”
Hah ha, what a foolish woman this was, albeit one who’d made that statement with admirable, matter-of-fact composure.
“Nah, Twitter’s not for me.” Simple. To the point. No mistaking what I’d said.
“It’s an intrinsic part of your online presence in conjunction with your blog. They work hand in hand.”
“No.” More direct. More emphatic. Maybe she had a hearing problem. “How’s your brownie?”
“I’ll get you 50 followers so you’ll be following people and they’ll be following you right from the start.”
“Not doing Twitter. What else would you like to talk about?”
Though we did have further “Twitter discussions,” honestly, none deserve a blow-by-blow recounting of here. Let’s just say I was no pushover for Ms. Rebecca Joines Schnisky.
Now it was several weeks later. Rebecca’s online. I’m online. I’m about to make my first public tweet.
Hold that thought. FYI, my Myers-Brigg personality type is INTJ, which in plain language means I’m an introvert. At social events, I stand off to myself avoiding contact. Contact ups the possibility of an awkward moment. And what is Twitter? Twitter is a virtual social event. Back to my poised, trembling fingers.
“What should I tweet?” I said to Rebecca via DPM (direct pathetic message).
“Say hello or something.”
Tweet #1 – “Feeling first-tweet jitters, I dip my toe into the Twitter pool. (Dip.) Ooo, cold. Very cold.”
Hey, not bad.
Tweet #2 – “Sitting on the Twitter pool edge now, lower legs in, splashing mindlessly.”
So I was beating the swimming metaphor to death. But, with good reason, with good reason: I was taking my time and getting comfortable. I saw a follower tweet about a flock of birds outside his window. An urge to communicate came over me, and I tweeted I had a cat he could borrow for his bird problem. He replied he was a simple man and only understood messages at the stick-figure level. What? That made no sense whatsoever.
But sitcks. I’d just read an article about boys and sticks on Slate.
Tweet #4: Speaking of sticks, this Slate piece explains why boys like them.
I included the link, hit the send button and waited. Nothing. Strange. Then Rebecca sent me a DM: I’d been sending my bird-guy tweets to some non-bird guy who had no idea what I was tweeting him about. He’d dumped me from his follow list.
Not ten tweets into my first time on Twitter and I’d already been “unfollowed.” I was a Twitter Twerp. And like an awkward moment at a social gathering, I wanted to go home. But I couldn’t. I was home. So I left home for Starbucks.
I took a several-week break from Twitter and followed it with a several-month break from Twitter. I tried Twitter again. I tweeted people I knew. That helped. I followed people; they followed me back. My list of followers grew. I was getting into Twitter.
A New York friend suggested me on Twitter’s “Follow Friday” thread and a West-Coast film writer picked me up. She liked one of my tweets and retweeted it to her over 14,000 followers. It was one of the proudest moments of my life, after my high school graduation, my college graduation, my first job, marriage, buying our first house, my second job, the birth of our first daughter, making a successful go of freelancing, our second daughter’s birth, a few odd advertising awards I’ve won, buying our second house, the time I shot a 76 on the golf course, both daughters’ high school and college graduations, the pride I felt recently at hanging a ceiling fan, and a few dozen other special moments in my life.
I’ve tweeted several hundred times now. I have 200-plus followers. Among them is an actor and film director in London, a white-rhino conservationist in South Africa, a comedian in New York, and a writer in Australia. I have a program that alerts me when people unfollow me – and I unfollow them right back with pleasure.
Twitter is OK. Especially when one gets people’s Twitter handles right.