I am honoured to share this lovely guest post from Jane Furniss on what Twitter means to her.
It’s always a joy to talk to Jane Furniss on Twitter. She is a veritable fount of knowledge and insight, and very funny, too. Jane puts Twitter to the best possible use. She connects people in need to information, help and even jobs (for example, I wish that in my younger years I could have had access to this Twitter thread of job interview tips that she shared the other day), and incorporates Twitter into her charitable fundraising activities. Indeed, it was the latter that first brought me into contact with Jane, via her work assisting my friend Sean Jones with his #HumbleBrag campaign (which offers top-ranking UK legal types the opportunity to humblebrag about their inclusion in the Legal 500 list for the meagre cost of a donation to Save the Children). You can learn more about Jane and what she does here.
I love what Jane has to say here about Twitter, particularly her likening it to an overheard conversation on a cafe or in a train. Take it away, Jane!
The joy of Twittersising, by @MaryJaneFurniss
I was inspired by @MJCarty’s guest blog post from @HelReynolds to mark their joint 10th twitterversary. Helen listed 10 ways Twitter has helped her develop and changed her. Reading Helen’s post made me reflect on why I love Twitter (and spend too much time ‘Twittersising’, as Mr F calls it).
I produced a Twitter thread of 10 reasons for loving Twitter which prompted a small number of responses and likes. Michael asked me if he could ‘include your great thread of tweets on what Twitter has meant to you, in a blog post’, adding, as he often does in his cheerful morning tweets, ‘may today be nothing but kind to you and yours’. Those delightful tweets and his sketches are why I followed Michael in the first place and are a good example of how lovely the Twitter community can be. But being a former civil servant, I immediately thought I should edit my thread if it was going to be ‘published’ – so here goes.
Twitter tells me that I joined in June 2015. I had previously only been aware of social media via my Communications and Press team when I was a CEO in the public sector, from which I retired almost six years ago. I had not used social media personally, unlike the majority of current senior public sector leaders. I don’t use any other social media channels. In my new more relaxed life, the brevity of Twitter appealed to me, as did the opportunity to connect with a wide international community and so it was I cautiously opened an account.
I spent the first year or so just observing, I began to follow organisations I was involved with or interested in, a few people I knew, carefully liked or RT’d tweets but said very little. Initially I worried if I hadn’t ‘caught up’on tweets from organisations or people I was following, treating them like an inbox which needed to be ‘cleared’. But over time I realised Twitter is like conversations overheard in cafes or on trains, etc. You can choose to listen or ignore, you can engage, or retort (or indeed privately snort) as you wish; there is no obligation to respond. Having almost given up, I suddenly ‘got’ twitter.
There are (of course) 10 reasons why I love Twitter:
- Aww and Awe
- Good Causes and Great Organisations
1. Connections – I can connect with lots of people I have never met (and sometimes wouldn’t want to) and watch and listen to their observations which I would otherwise miss. I can join in the conversations or not. I have also reconnected with people with whom I’d lost touch (eg @stevenburkeman), and as a result of us reconnecting via tweets @leshinton invited me to @HintonKath’s very snazzy big birthday party. I find I have more conversations with some of my friends and family on Twitter than I do IRL; yes I mean you @bob_bs1234 and @jamesrbuk.
2. Engagement – when I want to I can engage in serious or totally silly conversations with a huge range of people, sometimes momentary and sometimes over several days. On the serious side, it’s a great way to get my ideas about society challenged, informed and enhanced, in a way that might be less likely with my network of family and friends. On the silly side; where else would I discuss, with lawyers and academics, the relative merits of goat cheese, trifle and Angel Delight? And as a pedant, there’s opportunity for lots of wry observations about ‘your’ and ‘their’ use of ‘you’re’ and ‘there’, especially between @JamesTurner37 and me.
3. Learning – I have always been a newspaper junkie, but I read much more widely thanks to Twitter. All sorts of news websites, journals and international newspapers are freely available, and many experts provide astonishingly frank comment on every social, economic and political issue of the day. I follow people I disagree with to understand varied viewpoints. Twitter is a rich source of information and ideas. The risk is I find myself down a Twitter thread rabbit hole and can’t recall quite how I got there.
4. Sharing – I enjoy my access to all the personal insights, ideas, life’s serious, sad, funny moments, jokes, stories, gifs, drawings, videos and photos that people generously share. To the surprise of this introvert, I find I too enjoy sharing and getting reactions to my personal reflections, photos and my own achievements, running, swimming and gaining medals. I was amazed by the reaction to my #tellastoryinonetweet and gulped when it was picked up by @ThePoke.
5. Laughing – like a certain former PM I too thought LOL meant lots of love. Daily Twitter makes me LOL. On many a train journey I have startled my fellow passengers. Lots of items appeal to my sense of humour and give me a fund of funny stories and jokes to share with others.
6. Aww and Awe – there are so many heart-warming and gentle stories of children’s or animals’ antics; awesome stories of nature’s feats, incredible inventions and amazing human endeavours, bravery and selflessness; people on Twitter respond to requests for help or advice with a generosity that daily maintains my faith in my fellow human beings.
7. Good Causes and Great Organisations – Over the past year or so, I have increasingly used Twitter to promote the great work of the organisations I’m involved in: @NCA_UK @becomeajudge, @CumberlandLodge, @crisis_uk and @StreetwiseOpera. I also learn about the excellent work of other organisations on causes and issues which matter to me. I’m committed to addressing the strategic causes of homelessness so share research and policy developments from @crisis_uk. But I also want to ensure homeless people get immediate help so regularly tweet about practical ways all of us can do that, like using @Tell_StreetLink’s app.
8. Fundraising – I have always enjoyed participating in activities to raise money for good causes, eg running and walking @crisis_uk, completing the Moonwalk @WalktheWalk several times, swimming @swimathon for @mariecurieuk and @CR_UK. (Having never been any good at sport as a child, I’m now addicted to exercise and shiny medals!) Initially I was sceptical that Twitter connections would sponsor someone they didn’t actually know, given that we all get lots of such requests from family and friends. How wrong I was! I wished I’d kept a full tally of the generosity of my Twitter community; in the last four months alone, Twitter friends have donated over £870 of the total £2.5K I raised @crisis_uk. Twitter has also allowed me to sponsor several other people; I’ve enjoyed being deputy to @seanjonesqc in pursuing donations to @savechildrenuk from lawyers guilty of a #HumbleBrag.
9. Friendships – I have made some new real friends thanks to Twitter’s community. Over the past two years I have met around 20 people in real life with whom I connected via Twitter and whom I would not have otherwise met. Last year, I met @Ajctwit for a long lunch after exchanging tweets. We’re due to meet again in March. In January, 8 of us met to share a lovely meal @katiegollop, @hselftax, @EmmaDixon_EU, @BarbaraRich_law, @WGAbroad and @cjr1968. The photo posted on Twitter immediately resulted in several requests to be invited next time and jokes that I’d have to book the @RoyalAlbertHall.
10. Wisdom – Twitter has its problems. It uses incomprehensible acronyms, can be a platform for the worst human behaviour; tweets can easily be misunderstood and lead to quick offence; Twitter people can be very unforgiving; it can enable the spread of lies and misinformation and it’s a terrible time thief. So as in life we have to rely on our own and others’ wisdom to negotiate our way around the community and get the very best from it.
But all in all Twitter enhances my life. What about you?
PS – if you’re not already following the people and organisations mentioned here, you might want to do so.