Writing

When 140 Characters Just Isn’t Enough

Okay, so I’m guessing some of you reading this will already know who Bad Girl Bex is from following – or avoiding, blocking or hiding from me! – on Twitter. (Or maybe you came here to see who exactly was behind the long, rambling comment that was left on your own blog – in which case I’m really sorry if I took up a ton of space and gave you a headache trying to read all the way through my inane twat-waffle. That’s kinda why I decided to come here and create my own space and soapbox to squawk from, but I’ll get back to that in a bit.)

You see, 2014 was the year I really, properly started to ‘get’ how Twitter worked and began using it as a way of meeting and following a lot of smart, funny, knowledgeable people. Twitter is one of those things that when you first sign up, it sort of makes sense on a basic level. It’s easy to figure out how to find and follow people you like or are interested in and you just hope that given time, you too will acquire followers of your own. So, you have a little look around, follow a few people and when you feel brave enough, you venture forth with your first ever tweet.

And then you wait. But nothing really happens for a while, because in reality you’re just another unknown n00b transmitting the occasional thought out into the ether. You wonder what makes other people so popular. How did they get so many people to follow them? They don’t look ‘famous’ – and for the most part, they’re not. At least not in the non-Twitterverse anyway. But you keep on following people, you click on a ‘favestar’ here and there; you even go so far as to retweet a few things that you see and like and think is worth passing on. Then one day, someone actually favourites something YOU tweet and suddenly you feel on top of the world! Somebody liked something you said! Somebody actually noticed you on the internet! You’ve arrived!

Then it all starts to click into place. Twitter only works for those who are willing to make it work for them. To get the most out of it, you actually have to commit to the interactive nature of the beast. You probably start off pretty unfocused, following a variety of people who have vastly different agendas and ways of utilising their accounts. It feels a bit like you’re trying to find your friends and make yourself heard, whilst navigating your way through the 80,000+ throng of people attending a music festival. You can’t imagine how you’re ever going to really make a mark, be heard or make sense of it all, but you press on, stumbling blindly about the place hoping for the best.

The trick though, is to think of it more like a city. Like London for example. When we think of London, we think of the huge sprawling capital of the UK; vast, impersonal and lacking in that sense of community you expect to see in smaller towns and villages. But in reality, London is actually made up of hundreds of little ‘villages’ itself. Boroughs, streets, housing estates…. wherever people are living, there are defined boundaries of living spaces. Territories to which people belong; turf to be patrolled and defended.

No matter which part of London you actually live in, you will still have your own particular local shop, local pub or Starbucks. You might support Millwall, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, Fulham, Barnet, Leyton Orient, Bromley or any number of other football teams regulated by the London Football Association. Kids will go to certain schools. You might – if that’s what floats you boat – have your own local church which you attend regularly. The point is, no one living in London really lives in the ‘London’ people think of when you talk about the nation’s capital. (Unless of course you live in the ‘City of London’ and in that case, you’re probably way too rich and important to be reading this piddly little blog of mine!) You really only live in a small, specific area – which is really no different to living in a small town or village anywhere else in the country.

And Twitter is a lot like London – or any huge city – in that respect. Sure, it’s a massive heaving, living, breathing, sometimes overwhelming monster that can appear really difficult to negotiate and get yourself involved with at first; but once you figure out where exactly in this huge Behemoth you belong, suddenly it all starts to make a little more sense.

2014 was the year I figured out where my own little catchment area in the Twitterverse lay. Over time I had found myself gravitating towards more accounts which had atheist, anti-theist, skeptic or scientific content. I was liking and retweeting more posts that fell under these categories; and as the months passed and I started to get to know these contributors better, I found myself discovering other fantastic, interesting people through them. It soon began apparent that there was a sort of network connecting all of these really great people and once I’d figured out how important it was to make and keep these connections – via retweeting, favestarring, replying and creating content of my own – I finally began to ‘get’ how Twitter truly works.

On the surface, it’s one helluva simple idea. You get 140 characters to say something you want and broadcast it around the world; to whosoever just happens to be listening. You can use keywords or hashtags to make your Tweets easy to find, or you can address them directly to specific individuals you want to talk to. It’s easy to see how those ‘yet to succumb’ to it’s dangerously seductive charms, could write it off as just a load of people randomly spouting their opinions and another bunch of other people reading them. Because they’re kinda right. But what it also is, is the most successful method of getting to know and speak to, like-minded people from all over the globe. You can find people who have similar political or religious beliefs. You can find people who love pictures of cats. You can find readers for a book you just wrote by promoting it through your TL. You can drum up support for a cause and rally people from all around the world, to help you. If you have a message – whatever that message happens to be – and if you want to find an audience to hear your message, you can find that audience on Twitter.

Unlike some online fora which will only allow you to broadcast your messages to the limited number of members signed up, or unlike Facebook where you tend to make more connections with people you already know, Twitter can get your message out to millions of people you’ve never met before. All using hashtags, keywords, emojis – and all within a 140 character limit. I know that the guys behind designing the interface for Twitter, spent a good deal of time figuring out what the limit was going to be, when it came to deciding how many characters each user would be allowed per tweet. Somehow, they came to the conclusion that 140 was the ‘magic number’ allowing a user to conststruct just enough of a message to convey meaning, without overwhelming the other users who were reading through said tweets. There was a lot more to it than that of course and they probably had a team of  7 or 8 people in R&D, sat around a table, pouring over PDFs of graphs and other statistical analyses, for months at a time, before they finally came to the number 140, but you get the picture; and for the most part, I think they got it just right.

But as you will already know if you follow me (not to mention what you can tell from this lengthy opening gambit) I’m pretty chatty once I get going. I find it hard to condense all my thoughts, feelings and opinions into such an itty-bitty soundbite. I mean, obviously I do manage to keep myself restrained for the most part (it’s amazing how creative you get at using abbreviated text-speak when you’re trying to compose an effective tweet!) because at just over 12K tweets, I’m starting to become a bit of an old hand at it. But I do so love a good rant! I love getting the opportunity to write down how I think and feel about things, which is why I’m such a fan of journaling – something I’ve been doing on and off for 23 years. I think I also manage to organise my thoughts properly and clarify my position on something, once I’ve taken the time to write about it; either via pen and paper or keyboard and screen.

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One thing I noticed about a lot of the owners/authors of my favourite Twitter accounts, was that they also had links to their blogs and online places, included on their profile pages. I’m not just talking one or two people here and there either; it seemed like anyone who was anybody on Twitter, also had their own private, personal platforms from which to further expound upon their ideas, express their opinions and speak their minds. Following those links, I discovered a wealth of well-written, humorous, intelligent, interesting and truly impressive content. Pretty much every new blog I checked out, turned out to be worthy of reading and bookmarking, so I could come back time and again to see what was new. I found myself unable to restrain myself from leaving long, rambling comments on their posts – probably sounding like some dumb fangirl, more often than not. And when they took the time to reply to me? Hell, I was really blown away that they’d actually taken the time to acknowledge me full stop. But it really reinforced that conclusion I’d already come to, about how Twitter and the atheist ‘community’ as a whole, worked to create a network of individuals who actually want to reach out to each other and form friendships, offer support or just high-five one another from time to time. So it was only a matter of time before I decided that I too wanted to have my own little slice of the t’interwebs!

So, what can you expect to see from me if you decide to come back again from time to time? Well, atheism and anti-theism are the two topics that are closest to my heart, so naturally I’m going to posting quite a bit about that. But it’s not going to be a blog dedicated exclusively to atheism. The name of the blog is ‘Outspoken’ because I’ve always been renowned for my no-nonsense, candid honest opinions on just about everything. To call someone opinionated is looked upon almost as an insult these days, which always struck me as odd. Because everyone is opinionated. We all have an opinion on a multitude of matters, from the major to the mundane. I guess I’m just a little less reluctant to want to share those opinions I have with other people – and that probably makes me a pretty good candidate for blogging. So you can expect to find comment and commentary on a whole host of topics that not only interest me, but those which I think might also interest you too.

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I can’t always promise to be the most pleasant or palatable of posters at times; not because I intentionally look to shock or annoy people with my opinions, but because being honest is just something I feel really strongly about. I despise fake, phony, two-faced people who just want to kiss-ass and come up smelling of roses. I’d rather be despised for speaking my mind, than loved for having sold out and compromised my own integrity. So there may be times when you really don’t like my opinions or agree with the stuff I’m posting on here. But that’s actually a good thing. I’m going to leave the comments field open for now, because I really encourage people to voice their opinions, have their say and get the opportunity to offer up an alternative point of view.

Now, that doesn’t mean I’m giving a green light to every bilge-spilling fucknut and his side-kick, to just pour forth with a shit-tonne of proselyting bullspunk on here. No sirree Bob. If you have a valid, well constructed opinion then I’d love to hear it. But there really will be a zero-tolerance rapid deletion of any preachy, religiobot quoting nonsense, that anyone dumb enough to think I’m really going to pay the slightest heed to it, might decide to litter up the comments field with. Decent discussion and debate are always welcome; deluded fuckwittery is not. And on that sweary note, (oh shit yeah, did I not tell you? I do actually swear a lot from time to time, but don’t let that distract you from the overall message I’m trying to get across, m’kay?) I am going to bid you all adieu. If you’ve managed to make it this far, I thank you. If this long-winded introduction hasn’t put you off and you’re planning to come back and see me again sometime, then I would be very happy to have to along for the ride.

Now, I’m pretty sure you’re going to need a drink and a toilet break after all this, so I’ll stop now, before I end up going off on another tangent. Thanks again for your time (I know I do like to write a lot, but don’t worry, not all my posts will be of this epic Homeric length) I really do appreciate it.

Much love y’all

Bex

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