I approached the large table deep in animated chatter, on the patio of Caplansky’s with some hesitation. Although I didn’t really know what any of these people looked like IRL (in real life), I was pretty sure this was the group I was looking for.
I spotted Joallore, the Twitter guru who’d invited me. I said hello to a few of the people taking a seat quickly.
“What’s your handle?” was one of the first questions I was asked. Handle? I couldn’t remember.
“I think it’s @msaraf,” I replied suddenly uncomfortable that my lack of skill with the social media application that had brought these people together was blaringly obvious. When I said I was writing a story, they all joked around saying they didn’t know that “media” was invited. But if there was judgment the group was too kind to show it on their faces.
I had never heard of a tweetup before last week. It was pretty ironic for someone who barely knows how to use Twitter to be writing this story, but that was almost the reason I took the assignment.
I have always been told I should have Twitter but nobody could tell me how to use it. I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Write a story for my more-social-media-conscious-than-I audience, and learn about twitter.
Joallore explained to me that many of these people had just met IRL and had only previously known each other by their Twitter names/avatars. The concept of meeting people online made me think of online dating but this seemed different, less awkward and less sleazy somehow.
As I eased into the conversation I found myself caught between a tale of a very non-traditional polish wedding and a discussion on Twitter handles. The conversation was easy and flowed well, probably because these people have been following each other’s thoughts and ideas online. There’s almost an honesty in that, at least a sort of virtual honesty.
I knew I was surrounded by a group of foodies when the first thing people did as platters arrived was pull out their DSLRs and snap photos of their own and other people’s meals. I slowly realized that many of them had food blogs and this was going to be their next post. And I don’t blame them – the food looked and tasted delicious.
By the time we were done dinner, I was more relaxed. I had done my interview, learned all about the importance of tweetups and finally understood what that # symbol means when placed before a word. Of course now I take every opportunity to use it (even if those opportunities are few and far between).
I’m not a full convert of this whole twitter thing yet but I’m working towards it. I still approach tweeting like a kid overcoming stage fright – confident enough to perform but still a little self-conscious and wooden. I’ll get there soon enough.