Lockdown does strange things to people. I was quite happy in my own world - or ‘social bubble’ as it’s called these days. Spending time with family and friends, going out, working, doing everyday stuff. Just living really. It’s only when that's taken away from you, effectively being put under house arrest, that you start to miss the outside world and indeed, the people in it.
I wanted lockdown to mean something for me and to be a productive time, not just existing in a kind of stasis. As a first step, I dusted off some old manuscripts I’d always meant to get around to doing something with - if I had the time. Well now I did have time and no excuses. The first fruits of my lockdown labour will be a picture book called ‘Why, Mummy?’ which has been 15 years in the making. It was originally written for my own children, who are now very much grown up.
At the time of writing, with rumours of another imminent UK lockdown, I decided to take a further step into the great unknown... to get active on Twitter! It’s not something I’ve really done of much on my own account before, so I feel very much the newbie. I’ve posted content on my work Twitter feed, true. But it feels a lot different posting on my own behalf and reaching out to engage with people as myself, not hiding behind a corporate account.
I originally set up my Twitter account in 2017 to follow my son’s sixth form geography field trip to Iceland. It’s just as well really. Despite promising to text regularly to let me know he was ok, other than calling from the departure lounge at Heathrow, I never heard from him again for the entire trip. I knew he was still alive and well though, as through the miracle of Twitter, I saw him laughing, eating, visiting geysers and having a great time in photos posted by the school. To be fair, a leaking bottle of Coke killed his smart phone on the first day. But in the last minutes of the phone’s life, with its very last bit of power, did he text me? Nope. He posted a picture of the penis museum in Reykjavik on his Facebook page.
There’s so much I don’t know yet about using social media effectively, well Twitter in particular. Don’t even get me started on Facebook! I had a Facebook account a few years back and it used to give me the rage! I felt bombarded by the absolute trivia that some people posted daily. Eating a sandwich, waiting for a train, minion quotes, taking the dog for a walk. On one occasion, taking Mr Fluffykins out for a piss and triumphantly posting when the doggie had done his duty! Seriously, I don’t want to know that stuff! I’ve seen enough duck-faced selfies of friends of friends to last me a lifetime. It irritated me that every little thing someone I knew merely gave a thumbs up to was splashed across my Facebook feed. I had to plough through so much chaff to get to the wheat it wasn’t worth bothering with.
I digress. Over the years I’ve used Twitter to passively graze on things I’m interested in, mainly following accounts related to books, publishing, acting, film and media, rather than individuals. I seldom tweeted anything myself, except perhaps retweeting the occasional funny squirrel video for my daughter’s amusement. Talking of whom, confession time... I used Twitter to spy on her occasionally at university! (She knows I follow her and politely followed me back, so it’s not completely creepy, I hope.)
Twitter doesn’t seem to be quite as intrusive as Facebook. If it is, mine is likely be a short foray into the Twitterverse! Mercifully, I don’t appear to get notified of every tiny detail the Facebook algorithm saw fit to force feed me with. What’s the etiquette on Twitter though? If I like and retweet things, will I be effectively spamming my followers? There have only been a dozen or so of them for most of my Twitter history, so it wasn’t really an issue before. But if I gather new followers, will they find my thoughts, likes and interests even vaguely interesting? I’ve recently come across a number of posts along the lines of “you follow me and I’ll follow you back”. Is this the modern form of “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours”?
The world is a different place to what it was a year ago and I feel now is the right time to finally come out of my shell and engage with - whisper it - other people. Other writers, other creatives, other folk who share my interests, strangers on the internet! A bit of a scary prospect. I’m putting out the first feelers into the brave not so new world of social media and blogging, into what is very much new territory for me. I’ve started using hashtags for the first time to reach like-minded people and am actually ‘putting myself out there.’ Not sure how it’s going to work yet, but hopefully I’ll pick it up. If certain high profile individuals who will remain nameless can master the intricacies of Twitter, how hard can it be?
If you’re reading this blog having found the link on Twitter, thank you for visiting! It shows this liking, sharing and engaging lark is working! If you haven’t come here via Twitter and want to check out what I’m talking about, please pop in and say hello https://twitter.com/melsaffron. I’d love to hear from you.