Of Twitter, tweet-ups and introversion


Twitter, it is my contention, is a perfect communications medium for the card-carrying introvert. But what happens when the Twitter world and the real world cross over?

Gentle reader, have you ever had the words taken right out of your mouth?

I am a card-carrying introvert. Speaking to other people, the words sometimes don’t come quickly enough (let alone being taken right out…). Writing is another matter. The words seem – most of the time – to flow. I’ve always loved these words from Vladimir Nabokov’s foreword to his excellent volume of Strong Opinions (although were I to apply them to myself, the first two clauses would need a lot toning down, while the third would probably be pretty spot on):

“I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, I speak like a child.”

Twitter makes things so very different. Since I joined Twitter at the start of January 2009, it has had a truly transformative effect on my life. It’s the perfect electronic communications medium for me. It’s all about the written word, in short doses. They never stop coming. It offers immediate access to a wealth of folks both wise and witty (and, on rare occasions, famous*). Somehow it also provides me sufficient thinking time betwixt tweets to think out exactly what I would probably be too tongue-tied to say in person. You can be as quiet or as verbose as you like on Twitter.

So what happens when the Twitter world and the real world intersect?

Gentle reader, I had the words taken right out of my mouth this morning. The occasion was reading a lovely blog post from one Gary Cookson (a new name to me as of this morning, I must own), describing his first ever experience of attending a tweet-up this past week.

After two abortive tweet-up bookings, Gary finally took the tweet-up plunge with this week’s #connectinghrmcr tweet-up. Gary writes beautifully of how such an event is somewhat outside of his comfort zone as an introvert:

“I find talking to people difficult sometimes, more so when those people are more or less complete strangers. […] The event was brilliant. Full of talented, friendly, helpful and interesting people who happen to be connected through a common profession. I was made to feel welcome, one of the crowd. I found myself talking freely to almost everyone I met and, what’s more, enjoying it.”

Gary could just as easily be describing my own feelings and experiences of taking the tweet-up plunge more than five years ago. My first tweet-up was the debut #connectinghr tweet-up, in a subterranean function room at the Square Pig pub in January 2010.** I can still remember my nerves. I got as far as the corridor leading to the designated chamber of tweeting-up, and nearly decided to turn around and head home. But I am so glad I made myself go in. I got to meet so many fascinating people who’d previously only been wee avatars with 140-character soundbytes, but so many of them have gone on to be dear friends (including Charlie Duff, FlipChartRick, Mervyn Dinnen (well, actually this was the second time I met Merv, but the first on licensed premises) and the mysterious, the still yet-to-be-unmasked TheHRD).

I love how Gary’s post proves that the #connectinghr movement is still having such a positive impact on people’s lives more than five years on.

I’ve been to so many more such events since. So many Twitter friendships have blossomed into parallel real-world friendships.

Fellow introverts: Pushing yourself into these social situations can be tough. And it can definitely be exhausting (as Gary says, you need to factor in plenty of quiet and alone time afterwards, to recharge). But it can also be so worth doing. There are also more of us introverts at these events than you might expect.


I am put in mind here of the wonderful image above, as shared by Amanda Hite on Twitter last month, depicting the “Stages of socializing for an introvert.” (And I can only second Amanda’s three-letter review of this almost unnervingly accurate diagram: “Yup.” Even the most enjoyable evening’s socialising can be highly taxing for us of the introverted persuasion).

If it’s any help to anyone, for the past few years I’ve been compiling an online Storify repository of useful links and resources for introverts. And if you have any useful links on this topic, please do share them, and I will be delighted to add them to the Storify. Your share could help others find their way through their day, and beyond.


* I have had two particularly stunning (well, to me, anyway) Twitter moments with idols of mine over the years. The first – a tweet from none other than Stephen Fry himself – I’ve blogged about here. The second happened just a week ago today. None other than Gene Simmons of Kiss retweeted a tweet of mine to my Oz-based friend Sarah Miller (Pictorial evidence of this never-to-be-repeated moment below). Gene: Not that you will ever read this, but thank you, sir!


** I’m delighted to see that Gareth Jones still has his wee gallery of photos from this event online. But as Stephen Fry once asked: “How did we get away with those noses?”

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