For me, connecting on Twitter with someone I’ve just met in person is inviting them to live in “my village.” Follow-up won’t be limited to the “nice meeting you” email cul-de-sac. On Twitter, we’ll cross paths incidentally and without pressure. I may bump into them “around town” for maybe a word or two at the “coffee shop” or “post office.” Over time we may discover common interests (aka social objects) in each others’ tweets, and connect more deeply as neighbors or friends.
For a contrived, weird and techy way to communicate, Twitter’s “passive conversation” fosters very natural, gradual relationship-building. I explained about the village to Dan Bricklin, who immediately connected it to the chapter on “taming” and the Fox in The Little Prince.
The Village Mind
New to Twitter, it makes no sense. Post 140 characters into the ether? Stare at the public timeline’s chaos washing over me? Why the h…?
How does Twitter shift from idiotic to amazing? It takes a village – a critical mass of interesting people – to read and write to. When my brain started to connect with the brains (and hearts) of others, it got really, REALLY cool for me. You may be looking for like minds, or you may want to be totally shaken up by new ideas. Both work. One day I suddenly realized this was, for me, tribe-finding. For arguably the first time in my life I didn’t feel as weird and different.
Everyone connects to a different array of tweets and tweeters, so there aren’t discrete villages per se. But, the degrees of separation and connection create layers around each individual that hint at a very sketchy (and Twitter-specific) “social map.” (Often highly removed from who you actually know).
The Village Heart
Right in “my” own village (yours too?) @susanreynolds‘ breast cancer fight and the Frozen Pea Fund bubbled up as a lovely grassroots social movement to rally around and raise support for one of our own. (If you missed it, the story is in today’s Washington Post.) With Twitter though, the “village” feel of intimacy is profoundly global. Her story’s been blogged hundreds of times including Scoble, Loic, TechCrunch and even a link on the BBC home page.
This week in a nearby village, a car crash stole a well-loved young mother. Ashley D. Spencer left behind baby Lucy (2 months old), toddler “Sproglet” and her loving husband. She’d shared her pregnancy on Twitter as @ashpreggo, switched to @AshDMama after baby Lucy’s birth and is the only person I know of who permanently added PEA to her Twitter ID in honor of @susanreynolds. She died, tragically, and FAR too young, as @AshPEAMama. Ashley once sent me this hearty laughter on a very dark day. In her village, her humor and caring touched many lives deeply.
If you’re not on Twitter yet, I don’t blame you if all this seems unrealistic or hyped. But lives and communities are changing, profoundly, over here in this funky little Twecosystem the guys from Obvious built. You might want take a look sometime. I’ll probably see you in the coffee shop.