Who Needs a Pen Pal When You Have Twitter?

Globe in Hands

About 35 years ago, (yes, I am that old) I was a young girl eagerly awaiting a letter from a show called Big Blue Marble telling me all the details of my pen pal. I would be assigned another young girl to write to and become friends with. And so began what is now my most enduring relationship other than the one I have with my brother or my grandma. At 6 I’m sure my letters were lame. But I waited so eagerly for my letter from R. R lived in a suburb of Detroit and she was just like me in so many ways. We wrote letter after letter.

For years our only communication was in letters, cards, boxes of baked goodies at the holidays and special little gifts. I honestly don’t remember the first time I ever spoke to her on the phone. I’m sure it wasn’t until I was 10 or 11. And when we did finally talk on the phone it wasn’t very long. Back then long distance calls were very expensive. And because we didn’t have much money, long distance calls were a luxury we couldn’t afford. But I never minded. And neither did she.

But now, who needs letters and phone calls and patiently waiting weeks to hear back from someone you really don’t know? Today, I can chat with R whenever I want. I have instant messenger, texting, Facebook, Facebook chat, Google Chat and a whole host of ways to be in touch. But that’s because I know her. Well.

As I’ve spent the last year connecting and engaging with Twitter, I’ve come to realize that it is just the modern day equivalent of the pen pal. Without the need for a pen. Or waiting.

I’ve met, talked with, laughed with, bantered and generally engaged with hundreds of people. Without regard to who they were. It’s hard to really size someone up on Twitter except for their basic bio and often a link to their website. Usually, though, it’s not all that much more information than I had 30-some years ago about R. But you go with it.

And people do become friends. My friend Diana (@AdamsConsulting) is a tech superstar. Earlier this week she wrote about how she became best friends with someone she met on Twitter. It was her story that got me thinking about how technology has brought people together just like a Saturday morning show brought me and R together. That as long as there is a common thread to connect people, strangers can form lasting relationships.

There aren’t many ways though. You can’t really do that on Facebook. There you connect with ‘friends’ or people you know or people who know someone you both mutually know. It’s not about connecting strangers. That’s what Twitter does best. It connects people who otherwise may not have met in real life. Not because we don’t have common ground, but because we’re very dispersed. I know people all over the world because of Twitter. I talk to them, often in real time, about topics ranging from A to Z.

There is so much power in the written word. Add a heavy dose of tech to it and make the exchange real time and relationships that may have taken years to solidify become rock solid exponentially faster. They’re not superficial. These are ‘I will give you my kidney’ type of relationships. And they’re forming every day because people are putting themselves out there and being themselves and making friends in a new way.

The interesting part is that if you’re not feeling the connection, the investment time is shortened. And, because there are multiple conversations happening at once there is an opportunity to learn a lot about other people and their views, hot buttons, passions, character and ethics very quickly. In some ways it’s harder to hide the skeletons now.

The only drawback I see is that forming these relationship doesn’t happen as early as it did for me and R. And it’s because we’ve been friends since early childhood that she knows everything about my past. She lived my life with me and shared all the milestones throughout my youth. There’s something powerful about that.

For adults though, we often lose sight of the importance of connectivity. It’s a lot of work to find people you really want to be friends with because of who they are not solely because they are close in proximity and therefore convenient. Twitter makes it possible to hold that big blue marble in our hands. The world becomes smaller.

Pen and paper are wonderful for connecting. But as an adult it’s impractical to send off random letters to strangers. Twitter, though, has come up with a way that in 140 characters you can form strong and significant relationships with people who would otherwise be strangers.

I’m sure you’ve made great friends online with people you otherwise may not have met. Isn’t that just phenomenal? If we aren’t connected on Twitter or Facebook, please click the little buttons at the top. And comment or send me an email so I can make sure I’m following you back on Twitter.



You Retweet me!

Retweet on keyboard

Do you remember ‘THE‘ line in Jerry McGuire where Jerry tells Dorothy Boyd (played by Renée Zellweger) ‘You complete me.’? Of course you do, what am I thinking! Well, every time one of my social media hero’s ReTweets one of my tweets (which isn’t an everyday thing) I get all verklempt and the phrase ‘You retweet me‘ flies through my brain.  Yes, I know it’s totally lame. But then again, when coming face to avatar with someone you look up to and that avatar happens to be in your @ reply stream it’s kinda cool.

Maybe not for those who have 20,000 followers. But for me, with my 2,000-ish followers it’s very cool and exciting.  It’s kind of like my own personal Mean Joe Green Coca~Cola commercial playing in my mind.  And, well, yah, I do kinda feel like a kid.

Who would think that two little letters tucked neatly next to each other on a keyboard could mean so much. For me it’s a teeny tiny bit of validation that in a world of a bazillion people on the Twitters that I said something worth sharing. And sometimes I’m all fan girl and do a screen cap of it, but I usually delete it because that’s kind of weird to keep a RT. Now an @ reply, that’s definitely screen-cap worthy!

But why is this relevant to you (or me for that matter)? Well, something so simple as the two letters ‘RT’ can tell someone that you appreciate them.  You may not talk to them a lot (or at all for that matter) but when they hit that Retweet button they’re saying a lot about you and how they feel about you. And you should feel good. And be happy. Or giddy (not that I know about giddy!). And you should thank them if you can. I know that my RT of someone with 50,000+ followers is not likely going to garner me a ‘thank you’. But, you know what? There are some people out there who really do GET the Twitters and even though they have enough followers to be a monarch of their own little city they’re savvy and authentic and know how to make little ol’ me feel like I hit the twitter jackpot. So I take their lead on best practices and I thank those who RT me.

After all, it really is the little things that make all of us appreciate the day a weensy bit more.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like this. But if I am, I guess that’s OK too.  So, am I the only one?