What my connections on Twitter mean to me

Next week will mark my third anniversary on Twitter. Since June 14, 2008 I have connected with some pretty amazing people. Out of the 500 or so people I follow I can divide them into several categories. The first group of 100 or so are people (mostly educators), companies, and news agencies that I learn from, but don’t have much interaction with. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. It is just the way it is. The next group are people I interact with on Twitter only. They are great people, but we just haven’t made a personal connection yet. There is another group of about 150 people that I know from Twitter that I have also friended on Facebook. These are the people that I am comfortable enough with to get a little closer to. Even if we don’t interact a lot I feel like I can trust them enough to share my personal life with them. Out of this group there is a smaller subgroup that are my friends.

I don’t mean they are just people that I happen to know online, they are my friends in the traditional sense of the word. Our communication typically extends well beyond the conversations that take place on the public timeline. Many times we are chatting on Facebook, Skype or Google or we might even be having a conversation on the phone. These are the people I stay up late at night with planning projects. These are the people (along with my family of course!) who calmed my nerves when I was headed to the doctor for some testing a while back. These are the friends who I go to for support when I am having a bad day.  These are the people who supported me when we lost a beloved family pet. They are the first people I share my successes and failures with. They are my friends in every sense of the word.

The other night on Facebook I posted how there are still many in my personal learning network (referring to Twitter) who don’t consider people in their PLN  to be their friends. What finally dawned on me is that all of us Twitter differently. Many people use Twitter to simply share information. They have no interest in making a personal connection to anyone. They don’t care about getting anything from their PLN beyond information that is relevant to their career. I don’t think these people are getting everything they can out of Twitter, but that is OK.

This might be good enough for some people, but not for me. Twitter is about making personal connections. I think there are still quite a few people who don’t believe meaningful  conversations and real friendships can exist in a virtual world. I can say without hesitation that they most definitely can. These friendships don’t just happen. They take an investment of time and the belief that online friends are just as important as the f2f friends we see everyday. The only thing virtual about these friendships is the space in which they exist. The connections are definitely real. People who make a distinction with real life and f2f friendships just don’t get it.

There are some people who say the time we spend online talking to people is a waste of time. I could not disagree more. I have a circle of friends that three years ago I never imagined would ever exist. This is a fairly small group that I would do just about anything for. These are the people I wish I could teach with and hang out with everyday. I guess in a way I do get to do that—-just virtually.

5 thoughts on “What my connections on Twitter mean to me

  1. Beth,
    I couldn’t agree more. I just wrote about this same thing on my blog today. Social networking (for me at least) is less about networking (not that that isn’t important) and more about the social. I enjoy being able to interact with folks, learn with and from people and so much more. I am glad to call many of the folks with I interact with on Twitter on a daily basis (and may only see once a year) my closest friends. It is truly wonderful how the digital medium has allowed me to meet such amazing educators (like you) and other folks from all over the globe. So lets be more social, encourage others to make bonds and connections with folks. I think then the learning that we do together becomes that much more meaningful.

  2. Beth –

    Well said. I’m constantly on Twitter on behalf of Edutopia and for myself and I too encounter all types of users. Many organizations are still using that “push-model” – sending out announcements and resources and never engaging and as you said, they serve a purpose but I think they’re missing the full potential of Twitter.

    Even as an organization, we try to authentically connect with our audience and help them when they need it but also have a mix of giving them new resources. As an individual, I can completely echo how you group your PLN. It’s interesting that Twitter is the “wide-net” of the PLN, then FB narrows it more, then personal f2f events tend to narrow it more and so on.

    Thanks again for the enlightening post!

  3. Hello, my name is Kathleen and I am a student in Dr. Strange’s EDM310 class. We just recently started using twitter, and I know that I am not yet using it to it’s full potential. Your ability to form so many business relationships, as well as personal relationships, is very encouraging. The fact that this networking tool allows people to connect with so many people that they never would have met otherwise is very amazing.

  4. I’m with you, Beth. One of the most powerful things to happen to me over the past 30 months is for some of the people I’ve networked with on Twitter move from being a connection to being a real close friend. Some of the relationships are deep, and I believe they will be long-lasting, too. Twitter (and my PLN) has led me to new professional opportunities, but it’s the personal friendships that mean the most. Now, when I travel for fun, the first thing I consider is who from my PLN might I have the chance to meet and spend time with. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Pingback: What’s So Great About Twitter « IREC Pedagogy First

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