I know of someone who is hurting today. I don’t know her personally, but she’s a Twitter acquaintance. I’d never spoken with her before, but I sent her a private message asking if she was OK after seeing what appeared to be a rather dire tweet in her feed. She responded later in the day explaining what has to be the most heartbreaking situation.
On one hand, my heart broke for her as well, getting those few details of the situation that could fit into 140-character blurbs. On the other, I was astonished at her openness. I realize that being strangers almost makes it easier, because I’ll never show up at her door or tell anyone what I know or really have much to say besides, “I hope things get better.” But she could’ve chosen never to respond, or at least to lie and say, “Nope, I’m OK. Just a rough day.”
She didn’t. And that’s one of the things I love about Twitter. It connects people in real ways. Sure, not all my “friends” are really my friends. Heck, I could count up the friends I have and still have a few toes left over, while Twitter and Facebook both claim I’m going on about 350. But there’s something different about Twitter. While not all of these people are my real-life friends, I care about them in similar ways. I look forward to the information and thoughts they share. To those brief periods of interaction and camaraderie. Not to mention the constant flow of funny videos, nerd goodies and other stuff I wouldn’t find without them.
Social media really is an amazing thing at the base level. Jazz it up a little (but not too much) and you have something that is so multipurpose that many people rely on it on a day-to-day basis. It is community. It is fun, interactive, friendly and informative. It can be someone’s solace and support, even someone’s lifeline when a really tough day rears its head. Twitter has been that for me some days, when my heart’s been too heavy to pick up the phone and call a friend, when my thoughts won’t stay in one place long enough to write an e-mail or a blog entry. Getting those 140-character snippets has been a lifesaver (or at least a smile inducer) more than once.
I told this woman on Twitter that my thoughts are with her, that I’ll be here should she need anything. Even though we’ve never met. Even though I couldn’t tell you more than a handful of things about her. Even though we’ll probably never see each other’s faces outside a slanted avatar beside our tweets. I’m still there. We all are. I think the community Twitter and other social networking sites let us build is one that’s stronger than we realize. We may not drop everything to help a fellow user, but we’re sure to go out of our way to find a URL, share a contact or even put in a good word should the request come. And because we see random thoughts and ideas flying about all day, we can answer unasked questions and come through well before we’re expected to, just because social media gives us that window into each other’s daily lives.
That’s why I love Twitter. As silly as it sounds, even if another DDoS or other attack wipes out Twitter completely, I will look back on my time there fondly. But I don’t think it’s going anywhere. Even with as much growth and change as we’ve seen in the past year, there’s a million miles yet to go in the world of social media, and I hope I’ll get to be one of those people who laces up her shoes and runs alongside.