My Ode to Twitter

One thousand, nine hundred and seventy tweets. That’s my entire tweet history, fourteen years of my digital life (more like the first seven until I stopped tweeting, around 2016). That tiny number doesn’t adequately convey what Twitter meant to me, the relationships it created, and the opportunities I received. If I were to write all those words collected in a single story, they wouldn’t have the same impact. Their power came from the changes that elapsed between them in perspective, and in time. 

I joined in 2009, when I got my first smartphone. It was kind of exhilarating to be able to send your thoughts into the ether and see someone respond in real time, even random people you’d never met. Circles of friends joined and we’d all banter, or send a funny photo to elicit a response. I began to attend a lot of tech conferences, and I’d tweet my thoughts or reactions while I was there. As someone who benefits from time to think before responding, the asynchronous and flat nature of twitter was helpful to join the conversation. The limit of 140 characters forced me to be succinct and thoughtful at the same time. I loved that the bar was low; you didn’t have to write an essay.

Twitter was my community. I joked with my colleagues while sitting next to them. I connected with other female engineers as we supported and cheered each other on. As a minority group in tech, that support was something I didn’t realise I was missing until I’d found it, completely by accident.

Twitter was my tech library. A place I found tweets, curated and vetted by others, that linked to amazing resources, blogs to engineering culture, and particularly other phenomenal women in tech. Or tragic stories showing the ways women were being failed or ignored. I curated a collection of those articles as a reference to give to others, when the inevitable “why aren’t there more women in tech?” question came up. It was inspiring to watch people claim their voices and be part of it in real time. 

Twitter was a curated stream of consciousness; a place to share things too good to be kept to myself. Some stunning pictures of places I’d visited, or a particularly delicious cake. A one liner that I knew would make a specific person laugh when they read it. A place to explain my weird Australian perspective on British or American things.

Twitter was my expanded CV. My tech tweets connected me to authors, speakers, and prospective employers. I learned about new technologies and upcoming events. I linked to my projects, my talks, my podcasts; I could retweet others’ praise or feedback to validate my perspective. That track record was enough to open doors to me, later in my career – people offered me jobs, invited me to conferences, asked me to connect them to people, or wanted to discuss collaborations. (And then I went to work for Amazon, where it all came to a halt, but that’s another story).

I feel a surprising pang thinking about Twitter going away, even though I don’t actively post on it today. There is more than a decade of me catalogued – a lot of my professional growth, and serendipitous connections. Even now, I can’t get some of that back. People have deleted their own tweet histories – I acknowledge that going back 10+ years is a long time to preserve – but also, Twitter, after being horrendously gutted in the last few months, seems on a slow slide towards the garbage heap.

I hope that Twitter survives, but if it doesn’t, I want to acknowledge what it’s meant to me. Thanks for everything.

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