Virtual Friends

Most of my friends and family know that I love twitter. This is really odd because in my early days of using a computer, I would run a mile from any form of communication with ‘strangers’. Well, twitter changed all that. I love the conciseness of it – if you can’t say something in 140 characters then don’t say it at all. But most of all, I love the fact that you can pick and choose who you interact with. My twitter friends are mostly teachers and even though I have now retired, I still maintain a healthy interest in education. In my last working years I was heavily involved with Enterprise Education and then set up my own business as an Enterprise Education ‘consultant’ (I hate that word!). The pressure on schools to jump through hoops added to the cuts in budget and loss of additional funding for Enterprise (thanks to you, coalition) mean that it was more than a struggle to make it a comfortable income. On top of this, I found it difficult to do the ‘business’ part as in ‘taking money from people’. My business still has one outstanding debt that I gave up on because I’m just too much of a softie to keep pestering. The joy of it now is that I can happily help people find solutions without charging them and I find this much more ‘me’.

So……twitter. I read a lovely post from one of my followers this week about friends. Read her blog – it’s really good. You’ll find it here: http://highheelsandhighnotes.wordpress.com/ and the entry I’m referring to is Day 31. She refers to ‘virtual friends’ meaning those who exist for us on the internet via social networking. A few years ago I would have laughed at this but twitter has taught me otherwise. I have built up the most amazing collection of people over the years. When you feel down they respond within seconds with just the right words. If you are happy about something, they pat you on the back and congratulate. Of course, it isn’t always positive. Last year brought an example of the dark side of social networking as referred to in my blog in August  2012 under the title ‘The Strangest Four Days’. I don’t want to go over the whole sad tale again as it still hurts but you can read it if you wish to know more.

Twitter has taught me that there are a lot of good people out there that we may never meet. I have met some of my twitter followers though and they turned out to be just as I’d hoped and expected. Who was it said ‘Facebook is for people who are friends but you wish they weren’t but twitter is for people who aren’t friends but you wish they were’? Well, something like that, anyway. I pick and choose my Facebook friends very carefully, so if you are on my list please don’t take that last statement as meaning you!

This week was a sad twitter week in some respects. A lady I follow has been counting down to retirement and finally retired at Christmas. However, her husband was admitted to hospital before Christmas and sadly died this week. At times like that, kind words and thoughts and prayers from twitter peeps can make a difference. I find her in my thoughts a lot over the last couple of days.  There has been a lot of good news this week too as many of my twitter friends were shortlisted for NAACE Awards. The shortlist read like a Who’s Who of my twitter ‘friends’.

I don’t follow celebrities really. I can’t see much point as there is little or no interaction. I do unfollow people who irritate me and have been known to block people too. (Blocking means they can’t see your tweets.) I don’t like bad language on twitter and sometimes have to fight the urge to correct people’s spellings (once a teacher, always a teacher). My other pet twitter hate is people posting using auto tweets, telling me how far they have run, walked or swum and how many calories they have burned. In fact, I hate auto tweets altogether. For me, twitter is about people. I also get a bit narked when people retweet praise that has come their way. I’m not really a ‘look at me!’ sort of person.

Here are some of my favourite twitter people. I wonder if you can spot yourself in this list:

The lady who is married to a Head Teacher and has a great sense of humour. I feel we would be great friends if we ever met.

The lady who  went through cancer treatment and is always there now for anyone having similar health issues – as well as the rest of us.

The lady who was a surrogate mum for her friend. She is one very special person to help a friend like that.

The lady who has to live far from home for work and is having a pretty tough time with her school at the moment.

The man who runs a careers information business and always makes me laugh with his tweets.

The lady who lives on an island and despite the loss of her husband at a young age, is always positive and lovely.

The retired Head who has become an amazing influence on so many schools via blogging.

The bubbly, crazy woman from Wales who is a brilliant artist and SEN specialist.

The lady from Yorkshire who works for an education company and had a lovely baby girl last year

There are many, many others – too numerous to mention. All special people and all appreciated very much. I may not meet any of you in the flesh, but will always think of you as my friends.

And that is the beauty of twitter!

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