, , , , ,

If you’d have asked me a year ago, even 6 months ago, ‘What could you not live without?‘ I’d have perhaps said something like GHD’s or The Smiths or maybe even Cheese. One thing I definitely would not have said, is Twitter. However, ask me now, and it’d probably be my first answer every time. Why? I hear you ask…well, read on and you will be enlightened.

Six months ago is significant for a number of reasons, it was around about the time I started my Masters, I had just started a new job and had also recently moved into a new apartment. Life was good and I was happy with just my daily dosage of Facebook stalking and occasional news bulletin. Then came a pretty big shock in my life…after two and a half years with the same guy, he decided he didn’t feel the same way one night and moved out of our apartment the next day. Around the same time as this, I also found out I was being made redundant. Now I wouldn’t normally share such personal details so freely in the public domain, however I think for the purpose of this article, it’s kinda’ necessary.

Despite all signs pointing to the inevitable fact that I was now going to be miserable for months, after about two weeks, I actually felt alright. I owe this to Twitter. Around the same time as said dumping, I was involved with organising Manchester Twestival – a charity event taking place all over the globe through Twitter. Being new to Twitter, I didn’t have a huge following, wasn’t really sure of all of its functions and capabilities and certainly wasn’t aware of the networking potential it holds. So when I arrived at the event and saw over a hundred people, all active on Twitter, communicating on a personal level and networking with each other, I found it quite inspiring. I wanted in.

Fast forward a couple of months and off the back of Twestival, I had now gained a decent following on Twitter and had started to build up online relationships and rapport with people. At first, I was quite wary about what I tweeted about and who I conversed with, however I soon realised that Twitter would become a way for me to socialise with people with common interests, in similar kinds of industries, all of whom also wanted to network and meet new people. That’s the thing about being newly single, after spending practically all of your time attached to the hip of someone else, you suddenly find yourself at a loss of what to do or who to hang out with. And no, it’s not that I didn’t have friends, because I did…it’s just they all conveniently had boyfriends too!

Twitter soon became an addiction, it’d be the first think I’d check when I got up in the morning, and the last thing I’d scroll through on my phone at night. It had essentially become my new boyfriend. Although this sounds incredibly unhealthy, it was kind of comforting knowing that there was 300 odd people all wanting to follow you and listen to what you had to say. After having a serious knock to my confidence post break up, Twitter was a way of boosting myself up back up again.

Shortly after my birthday in August, I experienced my first real unofficial ‘tweet-up’ –over the last few months I’d started to become really good friends with @sophiebradshaw (the first person I really met ‘from’ Twitter) and had arranged to meet her for drinks. Sophie being the Twitter Queen that she is, had sent out tweets advertising our meet up and got on board a number of other Twitter folk for the ride. This is when I met the two Steve’s a.k.a. @Steve_Worsley + @thathurtabit. Having got on with them instantly, it soon turned into a rather drunken affair and we all went raving. And so #geekslikebeer was born.

Over the next few weeks we started to go out a couple of times a week, meeting up for drinks, pub quizzes, cinema trips etc and more and more people got on board with our #geekslikebeer tweet-up’s. Manchester is lucky in that it has a very active Twitter community, spurred on in part I think, by the amount of digital and creative agencies around the city centre. Over the coming weeks I found myself being introduced to countless web developers, graphic designers and social media bods all of which I now follow and chat to online. I had not at this point however, been to an official ‘digital’ event. This was about to change…

The start of September came and along with it, the famous first Thursday of the month a.k.a. Northern Digitals – an informal networking event for those in the digital and creative industries. The two Steve’s and Sophie persuaded me to come along to what was going to be my first official digital event and I have to admit, I was quite nervous. Although I probably already followed half the people going to the event, I felt like a bit of an imposter being a ‘non-digi’. After half an hour or so in the bar however, I realised that these events were actually a great way to meet people with similar interests and soon felt at ease. I’m not going to lie, some of the conversations were over my head and I did find myself being a little stuck for words at one point when one developer started talking to me about World of Warcraft, however I did also meet some great contacts to help me with my professional life and have been to several other similar ‘digital’ events since.

Not only was Twitter starting to influence my personal life, but now my working one too. Since May, I’d been involved with organising Oxjam Music Festival and relied on Twitter heavily to promote the event and source out help. At the time of writing this, through either sending out tweets or contacting those I follow/met at tweet-ups, I’d managed to source out help with building a website, designing a logo, designing a programme and obtaining volunteers. More recently I have been able to source out journalists and media types and secure radio interviews, online coverage and magazine features for the event without even picking up the phone.

I’m aware that to some, Twitter is not a viable platform and that this post may be quite irrelevant. I think the thing with Twitter, is that it’s not just a social media platform, for certain people in certain industries, it’s a way of life. In the past 6 months it’s helped me make great contacts, meet like-minded people and get me through quite a difficult period in my life.

This may sound ridiculous, but I honestly feel like I’ve become a better person through using it. I’m a lot more confident, much more willing to meet new people and just look at the way I communicate with people differently. In the past I tended to be quite reserved and grumpy when meeting people for the first time and have been known to be a little off hand. Twitter’s made me appreciate the value of communicating with people on multiple levels and really making an effort to make friends. Not only that, it has really helped me combat the feelings of self doubt and loneliness that are so common after a big break up and I feel a lot stronger as a person because of it.

So in conclusion, I would like to thank Twitter and all of those that I have met through it in the last 6 months, I never expected that you would have such an impact on my day to day life and I can’t wait to see what the next 6 months will bring! And for those of you reading this who are not currently on Twitter, I hope this has made you think a little differently about it as a networking platform and realise that it’s not just for 40 year old geeks with no life, but also for young professionals who love life! Get yourselves on there, and put yourself out there. You’ll be amazed at what you find.

You can find me on there @thesophiew :]