One night while scrolling my TL, I came across a meme with the caption “Facebook is for all the people you know but never talk to, and Twitter is where you hang out with the real friends you’ve never met.” Immediately, I focused all my energies into retweeting the shit out of that post. Truer words have never been spoken on my timeline. Having been in New York for just over a year after moving from Boston, and having grown up in Dallas prior to that, I’d gotten accustomed to having numerous work acquaintances and “people that I knew of.” But, with my real friends being in various locations between Texas and Philadelphia, I’d had to get creative in my search for social consistency.
I became a resident of Black Twitter, USA in January of 2009. Five years in, I’ve seen some radical changes in the hood. And by “some radical changes” I mean “White people are moving in.” But, more importantly, I’ve made deeper connections outside of 140-character exchanges. The first “friends from Twitter” I met in real life didn’t happen until 2012 though, and they were already friends of people I knew outside of Twitter, so meeting them for the first time was a bit less intimidating than it would’ve been without that buffer. After sharing ignorant laughs about any number of disrespectful topics, I’d gotten comfortable and forgot about real names, so when they showed up I almost introduced them as “Hey everybody this is @CousinSkeet and @WheresYourMan88!” Not almost, did. To which they were cool and laughed at my drunken mixup, offering their real names to the other guests. Now that I’ve had a few more years at this Twitter thing I’d like to think I already know real names of my core group of Twitter friends, and I at least find out prior to us meeting. As simple as it is, it makes explaining the relationship a lot easier when you can introduce someone as Mike and then follow up with some of the pettiest tweets of theirs you’ve favorited.
But where did this taboo come from? For the most part we’ve crossed the threshold where it’s socially acceptable for a relationship to have started via some form of social media interaction, and for people to be honest about it. I understand the initial reservations — largely stemming from the uncertainty our parents felt when the internet was new and child predators and identity theft were lurking around every click. But now, I offer the same sage advice to those still with reservations as I do to people who scoff at meeting someone in the club: If there aren’t any worthwhile people in attendance…what are you doing there?
This digilife hasn’t been all hashtags and homies though. I’ll never forget experiencing the loss of Michael Jackson together, and in this year alone I’ve lost two Twitter friends to unexpected tragedies. Grieving someone you “know” but have never met is an uncharted territory all its own. It’s very similar to the traditional grieving process but on a punctuated scale, and in addition to the normal feelings, there’s this new type of guilt where you question whether or not your time in mourning was appropriate for the loss. Sometimes you feel it’s too long, other times not long enough. And then of course the bittersweet memories when you stumble across their profile and see their last tweets, or go through your favorites and remember the laughs.
As a full-time New Yorker having had these experiences, it’s with boldness and pride that I tip-out with my Twitter friends here in the city. We’ve bonded on the common grounds of things I genuinely care about, or care about enough at least to rant for 15mins, and whether they stayed in spite of or just happened to miss that segment of the day, they’re here now. I will say it’s always tricky seeing someone’s everyday personality and how they react to real-world situations without an audience, and discovering if someone is real-life funny or just funny in the Tweets, but for the most part I have no major complaints. I’m thankful for my fast-friends because they’ve served a very special purpose in this chapter of my life, and while I wouldn’t compare these newfound relationships to ones I’ve forged through the years and over sour times, I’m not completely shut off from allowing them to grow in tandem.
Bottom line, don’t trust someone singing “no new friends” over a Khaled beat if they get curved by Skylar Diggins at the Espy’s…over an Instagram post. Or something like that.