In my last digi-disciple post I talked about the new-ness of my online interactivity. I want to explore the Twitter arm of these interactions a little further, in order to encourage those uncertain about joining. Joining Twitter has changed the way I look at the world and especially changed the way I see the interaction between Christians and the more secular world. Through Twitter I’ve found myself surprised at discovering many things. Some of the ways that Twitter has surprised me are:
- I’m connected to like-minded others who are a bunch of genuinely caring people, offering support and encouragement on a day-to-day basis
- I have stepped out of my comfort zone and got employed as a cake baker for a local coffee shop
- My reading of blog posts and different articles about a whole range of questions about faith or not has rocketed
- I have made very genuine friendships with people, many of whom I have yet to meet in the flesh.
It was the job that was the first to take me totally by surprise. This was an impulse, I believe borne out of the Holy Spirit, in response to a tweet I read from a new coffee shop in town. “Help! Our cake baker has left us! Anyone know anyone who might be able to help?” I replied and then went to meet Jason and Vanessa who were the couple running the café, bearing cake samples. Honestly one of the scariest things I’ve ever done! But also one of the best. Right up there with joining Twitter in the first place!
Then last week I did something else a little crazy and got on a train to go to London and drink coffee with a whole load of people I’d not met before (Except the lovely Gabriella who I’d met up with in October at a conference). I went because I wanted to meet face to face with people I have been interacting with for nearly a year now. I didn’t really expect to come away feeling as blessed as I did! I blogged about the day in more detail here: www.confessionsofasize15.wordpress.com so you can read some more about it if you’d like.
I’m also really looking forward to the Youthwork Summit in May (book online at www.youthworksummit.com) when I will be meeting up with even more people I’ve become friends with.
Of course there are things to be careful about on Twitter, and a whole heap of Twitter-etiquette that I’m not sure I’ve totally got to grips with yet! However, here’s a short list of things I did in getting started and some things you’ll need to know about.
- Use your own name, or something that’s similar. If you have a twitter account for business, create another one for your own personal ‘tweeting’. I’m @JHOsborn
- Use a picture of yourself in your profile, cartoons or other random pictures are all well and good (for being private in particular!) but isn’t great for seeing who you’re interacting with.
- You only have 140 characters per message. Try to avoid sending multiple messages to get your point across, that only really works occasionally and in conversation with another tweeter. Also try to avoid going into ‘text speak’ too much, it really makes things difficult to read!
- There are different types of tweet you can send:
- One is like the Facebook status: make a statement or ask a question. Eg: ‘Aarrghh! When will it stop raining?!’
- Also you can reply to others’ tweets to begin a conversation. Eg: [email protected] you should try doing the #EastbourneSundance!’ Starting a tweet with someone’s twitter handle means you and they will see the tweet as will other people who follow you both as per the example above. Starting a tweet with another character will mean that all your followers can see this message even if it has someone specifically mentioned in it. Eg: ‘Maybe @JHOsborn should try doing the #EastbourneSundance!’
- The use of hashtags is a debated topic within twitter circles but my general understanding is that they have 2 uses:
- One is to ensure everyone can follow a conversation topic like the #EastbourneSundance one mentioned above. Other examples include #ff (short for Follow Friday, a twitter tradition where people recommend others to follow for a variety of reasons) and #LoveMonday (a newer tradition begun by Youth Work Magazine’s Martin Saunders whereby people use this hashtag to encourage 3 of their friends, who then pass that on to 3 of theirs and so on).
- The other use is as a form of punchline. Eg: ‘Today was a bad day for my boots to get a hole #BitWetInLondonTown’
- My recommendation for finding people to follow is to look for people with similar interests. In the Youthwork world this is fairly straightforward and you can find likeminded people by following the #ywchat label. Look out for other people’s #ff recommendations (tip: be careful here not to use #ffs, it means something totally different!) as well and get following!
As with anything new it’s bound to be confusing at first but let me encourage you to persevere and reap the benefit of being in contact with many others from around the world!