What I Learned from Twitter (or How Talking to Strangers Can be Good)

Many of you may remember that back on September 22, 2009 I wrote about how Facebook gave me some startling revelations about myself. In fact, until my recent interview with The Vigilant Citizen it had been the most read article in the history of The Magical Buffet. I had another odd moment of insight thanks to the recent addition of a list feature on Twitter.

I’m guessing most of you are familiar with Twitter, but in case you’re not, let Wikipedia school you. (Seriously, for every problem there is a Wikipedia solution.) “Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author’s profile page and delivered to the author’s subscribers who are known as followers.”

Not too long ago Twitter added a feature where you can create lists of people you follow. It’s a handy way to keep up with different groups of friends on Twitter. Let’s use The Magical Buffet’s Twitter as an example. Currently I’m following 188 different individuals or organizations on Twitter. It’s nearly impossible for me to keep up with all the tweets these guys generate, as much as I wish I could! Now obviously I definitely want to keep up with all the tweets from people who contribute to The Magical Buffet, so I created a list called “Friends of the Buffet”. Then I made sure that every person who has contributed to The Magical Buffet in some way is on that list. When I click on that list it shows me only their tweets. Better still, other users can opt to follow my list. Right now there is one person who wants to keeps up with my friends. Thank you ma’am!

Now all of that explanation is the set up for this tidbit of information. When someone puts you on a list, you know about it. There is a part on your page that shows how many lists your Twitter feed is a part of. Currently The Magical Buffet is part of 13 different lists. The interesting thing is the names of the lists. Some are expected, like paganwiccanspiritual, pagan-occult-etc, spirit, and pagan-2. I find myself flattered to be on lists titled people-to-follow and friends, and tickled by being included on lists of occulty-people, this-that-and-more, and mutans. However, one Twitter user, @HipGnosis23, has The Magical Buffet on 4 different lists: social-change, creatives, philo-sophia, and bloggers. I found myself truly flattered, whoever this guy is; he seems to really get the Buffet. How much can a person learn about someone from their tweets? This guy seemed to do all right by it. Can you find a kindred creative spirit from ricocheting tweets?

I decided to find out who this guy is that seems to understand The Magical Buffet from my seemingly nonsensical Twitter page. Obviously I could go to his Twitter profile and from there go to his website and learn all kinds of stuff, but where is the fun in that? Wouldn’t it be more fun to just send this guy a direct message on Twitter to the effect of, who the heck are you? However, you can only use 140 characters in a direct message, and I wanted to actually give the guy a little context so I sent him the following direct message:

“Strange question, do you have an email address I can contact you at? I’m working on an unusual essay for my website and would like your help.”

He replied, “Sure” and provided me an email address.

And so I sent him all the text that you just read to find out who the heck this guy is, what he does, and how he decided what lists The Magical Buffet should be in.

And here’s what he had to say…..

I use Twitter’s list function to sort through streams of hand-picked users about certain subjects. I’m good at deciding who will talk about what, I think. The Magical Buffet seemed like an interesting account to follow and I listed it under “philo-sophia” (literally “lover of wisdom”); “social-change,” as I could glance through her past tweets and get an idea of her views on society. I could see that she was passionate about issues like equality, personal freedom (and also personal responsibility,) and also about individual expressions of spirituality and open exploration of being.

I have several public lists, some of which have quite a few subscribers. I take pride in cultivating them. I maintain a list of occult-oriented Tweeters, my musicians-producers list (rather self-explanatory) and several others, including an extensive list of interesting bloggers of which The Magical Buffet is a member.

To my own introduction, I am known as HipGnosis: I am a musician. A performer of music. A producer of music. A purveyor of music. You bring the booze, I’ll bring the beats, I guess is the general theme of this part of the presentation. If you’re ever down for a journey in sound, check out my wed 10 pm CST/11 pm EST/4 am GMT show on http://glitch.fm or check my mixes at http://hipgnosisdjsets.tk. I put a lot of stuff up there, also at http://music.hipgnosis.us where you can download stuff directly from me on the cheap. Also I’m on iTunes. But enough about that…

I spend a lot of time on Twitter and Facebook and IRC (instant relay chat). I know it. My followers and friends certainly know it, as they see my tweets flood through their streams all day each day, and I chat in IRC or leave comments on walls or generally make a nuisance of myself somehow.

I get a bit ranty sometimes, but I try to keep it as tin-foil-hat-ranty as possible. It’s the least I can do for all you wonderful people. I’m not ashamed of how much time I spend on these social networks; I have some incredible interactions with people through this new medium of communication.

A lot can be expressed in 140 characters or less. Sometimes, I’ll sacrifice a few of those characters to post links to music or videos, to articles and interesting websites. I also give music away and just talk with friends. We discuss philosophy, politics, food, books, art. A lot of the time I rant about whatever is making me angry at that particular moment. Not that I’m an angry person… I just get carried away easily. Apparently people enjoy it, or maybe they want me to shut up and make more music, after what just happened to me.

Recently, I was working for a few hours at a local non-profit organization, and my house was broken into. The burglars took my laptop and some minor electronic equipment and random prescription medicines (including some Prozac! Yum!) Well, I was devastated, as you may imagine. This was not just any laptop, but a music workstation that I use for performance and making music that I share with my friends and supporters. I announced what happened on Twitter and Facebook and immediately received an outpouring of sympathy and support.

At the suggestion of one of my friends in the http://glitch.fm IRC channel, I set up a paypal donation page and asked across these networks if anyone would be willing to chip in. I really didn’t expect this, not to this extent.

In approximately 24 hours, so much generosity and such a spirit of community was shown to me. With donations from my friends and supporters on these two social networks, I was able to raise the money to purchase a new laptop and have it delivered in time for my performance at Winter Music Conference in Miami (March 23-27, 2010).

Without this incredible show of love and generosity, I would have had to cancel or rely on borrowing equipment for the show on the 27th. This has enabled me to continue and grow further, and I owe it to these wonderful people.

Rebecca here at The Magical Buffet is one of those wonderful people, reminding me (and hopefully you) to remember that the world is a beautiful place despite ugly things that can happen. There are amazing things that can be done when we work together, when we are generous and kind and respectful to one another.

I have always had a problem when people referred to people they may spend hours each day chatting with as “online friends.” Of course their “IRL friends” (in real life) are in a separate category, because you have met them and smelled them and touched them. I am humbled by what just happened to me, and I owe it all to my friends. Not my “online friends.” these are just friends.