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About illness, Mental health

Why tweet?

People who don’t use Twitter often ask me to explain the value of it. That’s not really an easy thing to describe, especially if they don’t understand how it works on a technical level. But here’s a shot. 

I don’t think it’s being dramatic to say that I probably wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have my Twitter community. When I was very physically and mentally unwell, they were my first port of call. They still are. They’re instantly there. I don’t even have to reach out to them – they reach in. All the time. Every day.

It can take a long time to build the right Twitter community, through following and unfollowing and striking up conversations and putting yourself and who you are out there. I joined six years ago and it’s taken me this long to really do it – most of which has happened over the last year. And I’m constantly tweaking it. I used to feel bad about unfollowing or blocking people that I didn’t agree with, or who made me feel upset or angry. I thought maybe I was surrounding myself with a nice little liberal bubble of people whose opinions I agreed with and would just be kind to me all the time – and then I thought: what the heck is wrong with that??

Sometimes it’s good to be challenged, and I think my community do that for me too. They encourage me, they remind me what I’m capable of when I’m moaning. They discuss difficult issues, and I see those conversations and participate when I can.

Without Twitter, I would have remained incredibly isolated the whole time I was stuck at home alone, battling my illness every day. I would never have met so many others who face similar struggles. It’s amazing because it’s so instant – all I have to do is go “Help!” and there are people right there saying “Sure – what do you need?”

This help is not just in the form of incredible emotional support – it extends far beyond. When I needed new glasses and couldn’t afford them, it was Twitter people who got together and made that possible. When I wanted to get to Wellington – actually I will say needed, because I so needed that chance to have a break and see my wonderful friends – Twitter people made that possible too. I’ve been given books and clothes and food and the most amazing letters. There is little better than opening the mailbox and seeing your name handwritten on an envelope.

Living in a small town can be isolating. Living alone (which fortunately I don’t do any more but I did for the months I was critically ill), living with chronic physical illness, living with mental illness – all of these things are isolating. But Twitter is about connection. It’s about community. It’s about friendship. Sometimes it’s even about love. ❤

No other generation has ever had this much power, right here in our pockets. No one has ever been so instantly and constantly and extensively connected. And I think some people are wary of that, and maybe rightly so. There’s reason for caution.

But Twitter is also about education. You learn as you go. I’ve learned many lessons, many times over. I certainly wouldn’t have the awareness I have now if it weren’t for the people I follow. I wouldn’t be a feminist. I wouldn’t be into politics. I probably wouldn’t have been able to come to grips with and share my own personality and sexuality and the things I really, really stand for. Again, it takes time to build that – you have to opt in. You have to create your world – Twitter is not something that just sits there waiting for you to look at it. You give to it, and it grows and gives back.

BlanketFort

I’m a big fan of The Killers. The song Deadlines and Commitments always makes me think of Twitter. “The house” is my community. They always encourage me. They always offer me a safe place.

Deadlines And Commitments

That place we all run to
It can come down on you
The expectation can be great

If you should ever tire
Or if you should require
A sudden, simple twist of fate

Don’t hide away
There’s something to be said for pushing through
We’d never ride on horses that discourage you

If you should fall upon hard times
If you should lose your way
There is a place
Here in this house
That you can stay

If you should find romance
Go on and take that chance
Before the strategies begin

Deadlines and commitments
Every morning
And in the evening
They can suck you in
Boy, don’t I know it

This offer would be standing
All you’ve got to do is call
Don’t be afraid to knock on the door

If you should fall upon hard times
If you should lose your way
There is a place
Here in this house
That you can stay

I’m not talking about
Deadlines and commitments
Sold out of confusion
There is a place
Here in this house
That you can stay

Catch you, darling
I’ll be waiting
I am on your side

This offer would be standing
All you’ve got to do is call
Don’t be afraid to knock on the door

If you should fall upon hard times
If you should lose your way
There is a place
Here in this house
That you can stay

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About writehandedgirl

Sarah is a writer who is passionate about social justice, feminism, politics, and cats. She is a columnist and poet and currently lives in Nelson. You can follow Sarah on Twitter (@_writehanded_) or read more of her writing at writehanded.org

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