05 June 2009

Welcome to My Twitterverse

This post has been brewing in my mind since early March. Had I written it then it would read very differently than it will today, or even yesterday or tomorrow. You see, my Twitterverse is fluid, ever changing. At times fun is abundant, with cleverness the most valued attribute. Other days are about sharing ways to make the world a better place. Days when I open link after link learning things I didn't even know I didn't know. And of course, there are those days when I can rant to the world at large, free to express my ire 140 spaces at a time.

For those of you who are not familiar with Twitter, let me take a a few lines here to try and explain. If you ever entered a chat room the concept will be fairly simple to grasp. If not, let's give it a try, and if it still makes no sense, post a comment and I'll address your specific questions the best I am able. Frankly, trying to explain it here is forcing me to articulate what has been an abstract up until now.

OK, I have tried writing this section five different ways, and have decided to seek out the best explanation already written by someone else. Why reinvent the wheel, right?

Here are what a couple of 'authorities' write about Twitter:According to Wikipedia, Twitter is a "free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send updates (otherwise known as "tweets") which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length." Right off the bat I must correct this definition.

Many complain about the 140 characters allowed in each tweet, when in reality it is 140 SPACES that are allowed. So if you tend towards the verbose (like me), you're going to learn an entirely new form of abbreviation. Thus the proliferation of sentences that read like this: "it wld be SO GR8 2 have mark/color on @replies 2show U have replied back(like email) dont always rembr!" (source Sharon L Corsaro, aka @growinggold). I cannot tell you how many times since becoming a Twitter participant I have found myself writing just that sort of sentence IRL (in real life).

Pictured here is the dreaded and much blamed Fail Whale which appears whenever Twitter is down, loses our tweets or otherwise reeks havoc with our stream

I think this next explanation may be a bit more helpful for those who find even email challenging. How to Explain Twitter to Your Grandma: “Twitter is a free online service that allows you to send messages to hundreds of your friends all at the same time. Your Twitter friends receive an alert each time you send a new message either on their mobile phones and/or on their computer.”

Here is a short YouTube video that demonstrates even more clearly.

Now that I have done my best to explain Twitter, I will get back to what it has meant to me since joining 6 March. It is hard to believe it has been such a short time. My life is forever different because of this – no exaggeration! When I was flat on my back in the Florida Keys, I joined Twitter so I had something to do on my iPhone other than play solitaire. Little did I know that I was opening myself up to an entirely new world. It shouldn't have surprised me, really. Stewart and I met on Match.com over seven years ago. I met one of my dearest friends back in 1995 while doing research for an article in an AOL chat room. My cousin, Alyson met her husband, Vopni in a chat room. It's all around us. The primary difference with Twitter for me is the control I have over who is in my Twitter universe, or Twitterverse. If someone is offensive, I simply block them. That way their negativity no longer shows up in my stream, and I don't show up in theirs. Unlike chat rooms, I don't have to leave to get away from negative people. Instead, I tighten the net around my stream.

While we were in Florida, I decided I wanted to start a book club. Living on the road as we are does not lend itself to a traditional book club where we meet in each others living rooms once a week or once a month, but I knew that with the millions of people on Twitter I would find at least one other person who wished to read a book and discuss it. Danna Furnace-Grim (@_DANNA_) was the first to respond to my tweet asking if anyone was interested. She helped to research online bookclubs, and we publicized for others to join us. After we had a handful of interested peop le, we put out a few suggested books. Unfortunately, Danna was unable to participate as her boss does not understand the business potential of Twitter. He will soon enough, but for now we are able to continue to connect via Facebook (another story!). The most important criterion for me was that book was available as an eBook and it was free. There are over 28,000 eBooks available through Project Gutenberg, plus many authors have PDF versions of their books on their web pages. An eBook is available for anyone with a computer, so there is no carbon footprint (trees cut down, fossil fuels burned in production and transportation), and with money tight for many of us these days, free is something we can all appreciate and afford.

The book we decided upon was Wishcraft by Barbara Sher. Ms. Sher was generous enough to make her book available free as an eBook on her website. It is celebrating its 30th anniversary in print. The first time I read Wishcraft was in 1984. I was working a power job wearing a power suit. After reading and doing the lessons in each chapter it became clear to me I was not living my ideal life. I quit my job and went back to university to study my passion, political science. I was able to chart a path through life that worked for me because of this book. Thank you, Barbara Sher. Oh, and did I mention @BarbaraSher is participating in our Twitter book club, #booktweet? My lessons are now being reviewed by the author herself! Just another joy of Twitter. Six degrees of separation are reduced to one! For those of you who are interested, #booktweet meets Saturdays at 12 EDT.

Another influential author in my life is Paulo Coelho. I have read and re-read The Alchemist so many times I can practically quote passages by heart. When I had reached the point in politics where my rose colored glasses had been shattered along with my heart, I knew it was time for a change. A friend and I took a short trip to New Orleans, and walking through the French Quarter, I was drawn towards a bookstore small bookstore cramped full of wonderful books of every sort. The sort of bookstore of my dreams – a bit chaotic that requires real exploration. A small book with a purple cover caught my eye. As soon as I picked it up and began flipping through the pages I knew this was no ordinary book. I realized my friend was giving me a bit of a strange look, so after paying tucked the book into my pocket to be enjoyed in solitude later. Though a simple story, a parable really, its lesson was what I needed. I once again heeded the message in a book and moved to California to begin again. Since then, I have given away countless copies of The Alchemist, and have continued to be a devoted fan of Mr. Coelho. Imagine my excitement when I checkout my new followers on Twitter, and there among them was @PauloCoelho! By the way, there are several eBook available exclusively on his website, and we will likely be reading one of his books soon on #booktweet. Also, I was introduced to other fans/followers of Paulo Coelho, such as Maybelline Te (@maybellinete), who is an actual Santiago de Compostela pilgrim

Since Stewart and I are traveling full time we have been able to meet several people in person who we first met on Twitter. I've already told you about Tom Morris (@TomVMorris), Sandi McKenna (@McMedia) and James Johnson (@JamesIslander). Since then we have met Darren and Judy Reeves (@SuperDad_08 and @Judes_08), Mark Lesser (@DrMarkLesser), Mark and Vanessa Hundley (@MarkHundley), and Randell and Julie Hiltbrunner (@NikeStix and @SilverSmyth). Stewart and I had so much fun with these folks, we have now gotten together twice, and are meeting for a third time Sunday afternoon at Julie's art show in Ft Worth. We are staying with our dear friend, Dr. Nancy McClellan while we are in Dallas. Nancy will from now on be known as @Nancy_Dallas. She and I will be having massages and body wraps at Sedona Spa by Zane Aveton (@Zaneology), and this week, Stewart and I are going down to San Antonio for a guitar jam session with Jeff Schechter (@ReallyShecky). And I must not forget my thrice weekly phone calls with Ponet (@Ponet), the Queen of CAPS!

Speaking of music, as I have previously written about, Stewart (@StewartRaven) is creating some amazing music on this journey. He has allowed me to publish a couple of his pieces on Twitter using an application named Twiturm that allows musicians to share their mus ic with the Twitterverse in real time. No need to create any fancy videos or negotiate with iTunes. One of the pieces I uploaded for Stewart was “Shades of Gloria in E”. Previously, I had contacted Rabbi Specht (@RabbiShaiSpecht) about Stewart's music as he is a wonderful vocalist and lyricist. From time to time over the past three months Rabbi has “dropped by” to ask me if I had anything to share with him. When I tweeted him the link to Stewart's new song, the sparks flew, and within 24 hours the vocals were sent back to me. Stewart and I worked together to mix the vocals and instrumental tracks, and within another 24 hours, “Shades of Gloria with vocals by Rabbi Specht was up on Twiturm. The first collaboration by The Raven and the Reb.
Shades of Gloria in E

My experience on Twitter has not been all rosy. As in the real world, there are flakes who are disingenuous and inauthentic. Though I am having difficulty getting an accurate count, it is fair to say there are around 10 million Twitter accounts. In a small town of five thousand there are jerks who first appear great. Why would the Twitterverse be any different!? For example, there is the Lothario who is in love with someone new each week. And the opportunists who care more about promoting themselves and their businesses than being authentic.

Then, there are the Celebrity Twitters led by Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) and his wife, Demi Moore (@mrskutcher), Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) and John Mayer (@johncmayer) who have thousands, even millions of followers, but only tweet to each other, and rarely follow any one back. And others hire people to tweet for them (@britneyspears). For example, John Mayer has as of this moment 1,241,175 followers, yet only deems 47 people worthy of following back. The arrogance of this is astounding to me. The beauty of Twitter is the back and forth exchange of ideas and information. If someone only tweets without ever jumping in and actually interacting with others, they completely miss the point. Go look in the mirror and talk to yourself, John.

There was one celebrity who was following me (he shall remain nameless), but would only interact with me in DM's. After a few separate instances, I finally asked him flat out if he was embarrassed to be seen tweeting with a non-celebrity. His reply was to list me among his five top fans of the week. After I stopped laughing, I blocked him. I had never seen his show, and only followed him because he followed me first! I left him to Speidi.

A small group of us have become regulars in what we refer to as the #ENB club. One night we all happened to begin tweeting together and Jay Koch (@JayKoch) shared a YouTube video with us entitled “Ed Needs Bob

For some reason, this little video hit us all as hilarious. Stewart and I had tears rolling down our faces and pain in our sides as we watched it for the 19th time. He remarked that there needed to be an acronym for when something is so funny LOL and ROFL just doesn't cut it. Jay shot back with ENB! So now whenever something is especially funny, we tag it with #ENB. We have learned since this started that this is either something that you get or not – a bit like gefilte fish. Either you love it or you don't.

When I was heading to Kenner, LA for my appointment with the Neuroendocrine doctors at Oschner, I felt first hand the power of prayer. The folks whom I had grown surprisingly close to on Twitter acted as a support group for me in preparation and during my ordeal. Each time I would log into my Twitter account, there would be multiple tweets folks had left me encouraging me, making me laugh, and teaching me new ways to cope with the results if they were less than stellar. It seemed that the entire Twitterverse knew when I was meeting with the doctors for the diagnosis. When I shared my good news, it was like a virtual wildfire with support and cheers tweeted and retweeted (RT). Stewart and I felt as though we were sharing our good news with a group of people who sincerely cared. In fact, one man asked for my telephone number so he could ring me. When he called, he told me he was completely taken by surprise by how much he cared. These are real people out there. It's fairly obvious who is for real and who is not.

I know this is getting long, but bear with me (there ya' go, Frank Feigert!) - are the products and resources I have learned about from others. For example, I was kidding around with Jane Johnson (@JaneEJohnson), Amy Kaster-Heath (@newmanzoo) and a few others about the unfair advantage men have when it comes to relieving themselves while traveling. Up pops a tweet in my stream (no pun intended) from Go Girl (@Go_Girls) about their product d esigned specifically for women to, well, go on the go. After as few tweets back and forth, I let them know where I would be that I could receive a package, and they sent me a couple of samples to try. I wasn't sure if I would be able to go through with it, but my word is my bond so I went for it. I stepped into the shower and gave it a try. It was simple to use, easily washed for reuse and worked exactly as promised. A few days later we were on our way through Orange, TX when nature called. I stepped into the restroom at a small gas station, and was immediately grossed out. But then I remembered I had my Go Girl with me, and I was good to go. Granted, I still needed to touch the faucet handle to rinse it out, but I had a tissue in my purse, so cooties were avoided. The only thing that would make

it better is if they included a small case for storage similar to the old cigarette cases women used to carry. Something discreet without Go Girl written all over it for those times when my purse inevitably spills all over the floor. Thank you, Go Girl for making my odyssey that much better. Now, I just have to find an opportunity to write my name in the dirt!

It would be impossible to share all the ways Twitter has changed my life. When I mentioned to Mark Hundley I was covering this topic on my blog, he emailed this to me. I am including Mark's words unedited:

If I were to answer the question as to how Twitter has changed my life . . . well, I'd start with YOU! Meeting you has been one of the most powerful blessing I've ever experienced! Without Twitter, our friendship would likely never have happened. Then there is Ponet . . . nuff said!
Twitter has given me chances to meet people from all over the world without ever having to leave my home! And when I say "meet," I mean "get to know!"

How else would I have been invited to be the mental health expert for one of Dr. Mommy's websites; or interviewed on ReclaimU radio program; or be able to send free copies of the CD to folks who either needed the information or have access to folks who need it; or find people like Susan Heim and Dr. Mia Rose to provide pertinent and appropriate endorsements for the Second Edition of Awaken to Good Mourning; or have a gentleman take on the challenge to single-handedly raise awareness about my Birthday wish withing his circle of influence as well as that of his wife; or meet fellow therapists for coffee to exchange ideas; or have tweetups in Dallas with the best people in the world; or have invitations from other writers/thinkers to collaborate on future projects; or . . . you get my drift?

I believe firmly in the Law of the Harvest -- You harvest WHAT you plant, MORE than you plant and LATER than you plant -- in relationships, business endeavors, humanitarian causes, attitudes, beliefs, actions . . . My participation in Twitter and my commitment to myself to be as honest, transparent and real as possible has made this experience one of the best in my life!

I look forward to continued participation as it evolves as well!

Jay Koch and Jamie Inman (@ibeatcancrtwice) are collaborating on a radio program. Kathy Ireland (@kathyireland) has started a movement to get Elizabeth Taylor (@DameElizabeth) the Presidential Medal of Honor. Twitter is an incubator for ideas and creativity in real time. I'm just happy I finally joined. By the way, the first person I followed was NPR's Daniel Schorr (@DanielSchorr), who will be 93 years old in August. For all of you who think you are too old to jump in, think again. Look me up in the Twitterverse. As my TGDG (Twin Granddaughters, Different Grandmother) Jane often writes, "ttfn".


I would love you to share your experiences with Twitter. How has it changed your life?


  1. Absolutely brilliant explanation of Twitter! You use the technology to the fullest and reap the rewards which allows you to view further possibilities and encourage others to see them, too. Keep on pushing the limits and letting us share your adventures. #ENB You are an inspiring writer. Thanks for sharing.
    Cheers! Karen

  2. Excellent!!! What a well written adventure on Twitter!

    Wasn't sure about Twitter when I first joined, but have met some of the nicest, kindest people...just like you!

    Thank you so much for sharing your Twitstory!

  3. Mara,

    In my Twitter adventures, I am continually amazed at how close I feel to people who I only communicate with 140 characters at a time. I have become very attached to some people, and I can hardly wait to meet in person.

    It's also surprising how great friendships start with innocuous, simple tweets. I met you because I made a comment about how good you and Stewart look together in you avatar pic. Our friendship blossomed from there.

    I am really lucky that have gotten to know you. Even if it's just 140 characters at a time.

    Long live the Twitterverse!


  4. Mara, You are amazing :) You and my other twitter friends are true friends. I still can not believe how many people I have met on the web are some of my best friends. I use to believe (not unlike alot of folks out there) that friends were only people you have actually met. SO VERRY WRONG. Even though we have never met I can honestly say you are one of my dear close friends :) Love to you,
    DC (SimplyJulia)

  5. You have distilled the essense of the whys of Twitter with humor, laughter and love. It is easy to check your favorite groups (mark a Tweet with a Star) also to find new people, places, art, music books and inspiration. I just have. (Thank you) and When most of my people are asleep. (5am on a Sunday morn)

  6. Thanks for sharing your story! I have, like you, met some amazing people that I can't wait to meet in person and because of Twitter I have become a much more social person in real life! Probably one of my favorite friends is a gentleman in Portugal, that I believe, should I call him and say I am going there to visit he would allow me to stay with him. To all my current friends and the future ones I will meet .... welcome to my Twitterverse!

    Michelle in WI

  7. What a beautiful and insightful article on the pleasures of Twitter. And I'm happy to see that we met a mutual friend on Twitter -- @MarkHundley ! Thanks for expressing so eloquently what I've tried to explain to people about the benefits and joys of "tweeting."


  8. Great post! Yes Twitter has changed my life... it brought me you!


    PS when the brain is up and running Im reading with you again.

  9. oh my i loved this. when someone asks me why i'm on twitter i'm going to point to this post. you have formulated the twitter experience in a way that just helped me to understand why i'm fascinated with it.

    i formed the same wonderful friendships when i joined a project 365 group on flickr. a year later some of those folks who started out as strangers became close personal friends. almost three years later we are still meeting members from that group!

    i can see twitter has the same potential.

    thanks mara for the great post.

    @sazeroo aka sazzy on flickr

  10. I write for children - and for newspapers - so I've long valued Strunk & White's exhortation to "OMIT NEEDLESS WORDS." #140 is a kinda fun challenge, frankly: take a minute b4 u tweet. The less you say, the more powerful it HAS to be.

    Think Mark Twain: "The diff between the right word & the almost right word? Lightning and a lightning bug."

    Is it any wonder, when Tweeps connect, lightning strikes?

    Lightning has struck for me on Twitter a surprising # of times.

    Not knocking other forms of "social media," but Twitter seems to float a preponderance of intelligence.

    Again: the #140 challenge - if you "get it," you're a thunderbolt in the Twitterverse.

  11. Great article. Twitter brought me to your blog.
    I enjoy the dialogue.
    There are some very high forms of intelligence here.

  12. Should the day come when there is no longer Twitter, I will gaze at the stars and remember the many wonderful friends it brought me & you'd be foremost in my thoughts.
    Thank you for your friendship, Mara. May we meet IRL one day.
    An inspirational post, as always.

  13. I came to Twitter because of Stephen Fry and because I was looking for Russell Brand.. little did I know that night in february how much my life would change and how fast.
    I was never into the whole chatroom thing, and seeing as neither of them whom I came to connect with were really talking I started along this path that has filled my life with such wonderful people. I've gone so many places, opened my mind and my heart in ways I have been longing to. The world has found it's way to connect us, in little pockets the web is being built, and these pockets connect to the next one and it is so world wide! The coolest part..spending a rainy day from beginning to end on twitter and talking around the world, as one woke up another went to work or bed, the world revolved around my connections, fills me with smiles.
    Trying to explain Twitter to people has been challanging..alot of people think that the world is full of wierdos and let me tell you life offers you what you show it...it truely is a mirror and Twitter proves it to me daily... for me Twitter is like fishing throw out your line and see what nibbles you get, but if you don't throw yourself out there there is no point.
    thanks for strolling by my screen..thanks for Bob and Ed :) and the ass of the world priceless!