TweetUp

Around the start of 2010 I became properly involved with Twitter. Around 6 months before, I had created an account for the sole purpose of following Bradley Wiggins during the Tour de France and during 2009 I did little with it. I am not sure of how many people I followed or followers I had by the end of the year, but I would guess around 10 and 5 respectively.

In January, due to a mixture of gadget envy and frustration with my turd of a mobile, I decided to buy an iPhone and then, because it was free, installed TweetDeck. This seemingly insignificant step was probably the flap of the butterfly’s wings which caused the typhoon – I now had access to Twitter everywhere I went.

If something funny happened to me or something funny occurred to me pre-Twitter, it would have at most been shared with a couple of people in my immediate vicinity, or often it occured when I had no one to share it with at all. Now I started to Tweet these things as and when they happened, I suppose because I always had an audience.

More importantly, I started to find other interesting people on Twitter and follow them. All of this quickly snowballed and as I exchanged tweets with other users, I started to enjoy feeling part of a virtual community.

I can’t remember exactly how or when I started following Simon Key, but over time he has become one of my favourite people on Twitter. Simon, I should add, co-owns The Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green. Unfortunately, Wood Green is absolutely miles away from the bit of London in which I live and until yesterday I had never even been there but as fate would have it, I found myself only two tube stops away with some spare time, and I thought what the heck, I’ll pop in.

This decision is more significant than it perhaps seems. This is the first time I have actively gone to meet someone I only know through Twitter. I have followed a few people I know and bumped into a couple of people I started following because we share a local but this was different – this was me changing my plans specifically to meet someone with whom the only connection I have is Twitter.

As I entered the book shop, I immediately recognised Simon. This is partly because I have in built Terminator-style face recognition software but also because he is distinct from the crowd with long hair, a super-hero t-shirt and woolly hat. (And partly because he was standing a metre or so from the doorway.)

For this much, I was prepared. However, I also recognised the man with whom he was in conversation. You see, I also followed him on Twitter. This second, unexpected Tweeter, was Greg Stekelman who’s blog I even link to from my own.

Now, I do remember roughly how I started following Greg. As I recall, I was watching MasterChef and someone retweeted one of Greg’s tweets. Greg used to tweet a lot about MasterChef and not in a “Now Dave is chopping an onion.” kind of way. Whatever it was made me laugh out loud (I don’t say lol, I’m not 15) so I checked his other recent tweets. During that episode of MasterChef he had been tweeting something equally funny every few minutes for the entire duration. It was stunning and I was hooked.

Anyway. Back in the bookshop, I was standing in the doorway (like a muppet), watching these two in conversation. I introduced myself, slightly nervously. I had no idea how to do this. “I follow you on Twitter,” I said to Simon. “I’m RedEaredRabbit.” If I contravened the official Twitter etiquette for these situations, he didn’t let it show and he shook my hand and offered me a cup of tea.

While he went off to brew it, I chatted with Greg. Now Greg, I should add, is somewhat famous on Twitter. Not famous like Lady GaGa in that people only follow him because he is famous outside Twitter. Greg is famous on Twitter for what he writes on Twitter. To give you a measure of this, Greg tweeted that he was talking to me and I instantly got 10 new followers. True power.

Greg doesn’t follow me on Twitter, so us meeting led to an interesting social situation – I knew a hell of a lot more about him than he did about me.

Greg : I recently moved.

Me: I know – your neighbours sound like hell.

You may think this would make conversation difficult but actually it was discussing this phenomenon which opened the conversation up. Hands up, I am a complete Twitter novice compared with Greg. Not just in terms of the respective number of people who follow us, but also because I have never had :

In spite of this, it transpired, the way in which Tweeters interact with each other through these seemingly insignificant messages is a genuinely interesting subject to both of us.

While I was talking to Greg, Simon was trying to split time between us and running the shop. When he was free he would always come over and easily drop into the conversation, be it Twitter, books, buses or MasterChef.

I hadn’t just visited the book shop to chat though, I was keen on buying some books and asked Simon if he could recommend some. I didn’t want to guide him too much – I wanted to see what he would recommend given how little he knew about me. If you are ever fortunate enough to visit Simon in the Big Green Bookshop, I recommend you do this. Simon is passionate about books – not at all in a contrived way, but he has a genuine, understated love of what he does. As it turned out, he did a fine job and as he went through the selection he explained a little about each book and why he liked it. Simon’s selection (plus two choices from Greg) is below:

Simon's selection, plus two choices from Greg

I left the shop happy in the knowledge that what I worried could have been a disaster was actually an hour spent meeting two marvelous people. I have no plans to seek out all the other people I interact with on Twitter (Dave Gorman’s next project?) but I hope to bump into some of them at some stage.

I hope by the time I do, I’ll have understood the Twitter etiquette for such things and I hope, as well, they are every bit as nice as @simontkey and @themanwhofell.

RedEaredRabbit