Friday, February 22, 2019

Ten Years on Twitter

As of 2:17 PM Central Time today it has been ten years since I have had a Twitter account. While I set up my account on February 22 2009, it would be a while before I would follow someone. The first person I followed was my dear friend Raquel Stecher (although she was still going by her maiden name Matos back then). It would be a few weeks before I would actually make a tweet. It was on March 9 2009 (the day before my birthday) at 12:37 PM that I made my first tweet, which was a link to my blog post on the passing of Charlie Chaplin's son Sydney. Over time the number of tweets I made on any given day would increase dramatically. And while Twitter has received a good deal of bad press over the years, except for the days when Google+ was in its prime, it has always been my favourite social media service.

Among other things Twitter has given me access to a wider audience than I had before. While A Shroud of Thoughts had a readership well before Twitter (the blog was a few months shy of five years old when I joined Twitter), its audience would grow substantially once I began regularly tweeting links to my blog posts. For much of the past ten years, Twitter has provided more hits to A Shroud of Thoughts than any other social media service. In fact, there are some days when most of the hits on my blog come from Twitter.

It was also through Twitter that I met the majority of my fellow classic film buff friends. While I had a few prior to joining Twitter from my years of blogging (the aforementioned Raquel being one of them), I would meet many more on the social media service. Many of them now number among my closest friends. Indeed, I would be one of the original members of #TCMParty, the group of Turner Classic Movies fans who live tweet movies on that channel. It would be through #TCMParty that I would make even more friends, some of who would also number among the closest friends I have ever had. I would also be able to connect to people I respect and admire. Among the people whom I follow and who follows me is Nell Minow, movie critic and the daughter of my hero Newton Minow. I am proud to count her among my friends. I have also been able to interact with such people as Illeana Douglas, Michael Des Barres, Josh Mankiewicz, and Tommy James.

Indeed, it would be through #TCMParty and Twitter that I would meet the most important person in my life. Vanessa Marquez was another one of the original members of #TCMParty and, like me, she live tweeted to such shows as Mad Men and Downton Abbey as well. At first my friends and I were not quite sure that she was the Vanessa Marquez of Stand and Deliver (1988) and ER fame, as we  had encountered people impersonating celebrities on Twitter before. That having been said, Vanessa turned out to be who she claimed to be, and she proved to be entirely wonderful. Being close to the same age and sharing many of the same interests, it was not long before Vanessa and I bonded and became friends. Our friendship would grow to the point that I would count Vanessa as my very best friend. I am not sure when I fell in love with her, but I believe it was well before I consciously realised it. Vanessa would become the one person I love more than anyone else in my life. I might never have met her had it not been for Twitter.

Of course, Twitter has a reputation for trolls, something that has received a good deal of press over the years. That having been said, I have actually found Facebook to be a much worse haven for trolls than Twitter ever has been (there is a reason my Facebook posts are private and I am not active on very many groups). This is not to say that I haven't had a few bad experiences on Twitter with regards to trolls. When Vanessa died, one of my tweets made national news sources (it is odd seeing one's tweet alongside those from famous actors). As a result I received replies from sociopaths who apparently took joy in trying to hurt someone who was experiencing the worst grief he has ever experienced in his life. I responded to none of them and reported and blocked each and every one of them. That having been said, in Twitter' defence, I had many complete strangers who took up for me and defended me against the trolls, often quite vehemently. To them I am eternally grateful.

While I don't think Twitter's reputation for trolls is quite warranted, I do think Twitter has a problem in dealing with trolls. It often seems that trolls can continue tweeting unabated even after their tweets and accounts have been reported by several people. In fact, at least two very famous trolls come to mind. At the same time, while Twitter gives a few trolls free reign, it seems to me that they will suspend the accounts of women who speak out about sexual harassment. The Twitter account of my Vanessa was suspended after she complained about sexual harassment on the set of ER. I complained to Twitter about her account being suspended, as did many of Vanessa's other friends, to no avail. After her death I asked Twitter to reopen her original account, as did many of her other friends, to no avail. I even tweeted and emailed Jack Dorsey himself about it, but received no response. I cannot deny that I am still a bit angry at this, especially given the trolls who regularly tweet truly offensive things are allowed to continue with their accounts regardless of how many complaints there are against them.

At any rate, while I will admit that I do have some problems with Twitter as far as the way it deals with trolls and as far as suspending accounts that absolutely should not be suspended, it remains my favourite social media service. To this day I receive more hits on A Shroud of Thoughts from Twitter than I do any other social media service. To this day I continue to make new friends there. And to this day it remains the primary means through which I stay in touch with many of my friends. Twitter has enriched my life much more than some other social media services (*cough* Facebook *cough*) and I have no regrets about having created an account there.

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