The Macmillan Dictionary’s Buzzword this week is “tweetup”, defined as a meeting of two or more people who know each other through the Twitter short messaging service (for a fuller discussion of tweetup’s meaning and background click on the link). As an avid twitterer (or tweeter? I don’t know which is grammatically correct…) I have participated in tweetups – though until now I didn’t know that there was a term for them. But, having tweeted a link to the word and provoked a couple of responses, I got to thinking about the pros and cons of meetups, tweetups and other such web-inspired gatherings, and the way in which the internet is changing the rules and means of social interaction.
As regular readers will know, I met Kate on twitter. Our entire friendship, not to mention the club, is based on a handful of random tweets (Kate saved the timeline of tweets that led up to SMB – you can see them here) that culminated in a cuppa and a chat at The White Horse in Leamington. Tea turned to strawberry beer, the chat turned into an epic nattering session, and we realised the enormous amount we had in common. Kate always says she felt like she was on a blind date, only instead of a pink carnation she recognised me by my hair…
Of course, the internet can be a really scary place. I’m relatively careful about what I post where – my facebook is protected by the very highest privacy levels and the only content you’ll find by googling my name is content I don’t mind strangers seeing. My email has to be fairly public, but my phone number is not something I share, no more my address. Even on 123People you’ll find a lot of info relating to OTHER Caroline Shorts – only one of the four pages of images is of me (and I barely recognised myself – I guarantee you wouldn’t!!). I try to be as open and honest as I can on here – about how I’m feeling and what’s going on in my life – but always to the exclusion of anything that could prove potentially intrusive. I’ve done the whole stalkee thing and I can’t say I liked it much…
Still, I feel that my regular readers know “who I am”. In most ways they know me as well as many of my real life friends do. So merging over from one to the other isn’t such a huge deal – which is why, thanks to the proliferation of twitter-related terminology out there, there’s now a word for what Kate and I did. And is why, when you do meet people “in real life” who know you through the internet, things often fall very quickly into place.
Take last night as a case in point. Lauren and I met Roisin at one of our regular haunts in town. Now, I’ve been reading Roisin’s blog and she mine for a while, we’ve chatted on twitter, we met accidentally at the pub once, fleetingly, when we were holding a club social meeting, and just last week we passed one another on The Parade and did the whole “is-it-isn’t-it” half smile thing… When we first got to the pub last night Roisin said how, although we’d never met, she felt like she knew us. And within half an hour (and a glass of wine apiece) we were giggling like a gaggle of girls who’d known one another for years! Because, without ever having met, we do know each other. We know we’ve got things in common – be they dresses (within an hour we’d planned to throw a party where we could wear our most over-the-top frocks), crafting (Lauren and I SMB, Roisin knits and crochets), media (Roisin and I had previously discussed Dr Who, Lauren and Roisin have Stephen King in common, we’re all insatiable readers), education (Roisin works for the QCDA, I in educational publishing)… and possibly most importantly of all, the internet.
When bloggers get together they discuss other bloggers – in the same way that when I meet up with old school friends we discuss our old school peers. The networks blogging and twitter create naturally evolve in the same way friendships do – the ease with which one can share online means that those with similar tastes or hobbies naturally gravitate towards one another. And we create circles, cliques even, of like-minded individuals. It’s natural that these translate to the real world – why wouldn’t they?!
Kate and I feel strongly that this is the reason SMB has taken off so quickly. By promoting our club so prominently through meetup and our own blogs, we’ve gained members who are also pro-internet. The club’s central themes, books and sewing, have meant that we have inevitably ended up with like-minded members… and as our numbers have grown we’ve found we naturally have other things in common – baking, for example, and films. Technically, until the last two weeks (when we started attracting new members via the Sew Hip feature), every single one of our members met “online”. We couldn’t have got the word out as effectively any other way.
So, if you’ve made friends online but are unsure about translating the friendship into “reality” I say go for it. Yes, there are crazies out there, but if your mental-magnet is anywhere near as powerful as mine is you’re just as likely to meet a mental on the bus as on the net. Apply common sense – meet in a public place, take someone with you if you like, make sure someone knows where you are and set up an escape strategy with a friend if it makes you feel more comfortable – in fact, treat the whole thing as you would a blind date – but go for it! It just might be worth your while!