The early Aussie Twitterati

Hi, my name’s Jo, and I’ve been a daily twitter user for more than 6 years. Yeah, I caught that microblogging bug early – back when people said “I don’t get it, why would you want that?” and, “all twitter people do is tweet stuff from the newspaper.” I joined a group of early adopter Aussies – The Australian Twitterati. Ah yes, those were the days… (insert smarmy wavy lines around the edge of the screen)

We’d describe twitter as a cocktail party. Throughout the day we’d send some tweets, but like all the best cafe’s and nightclubs, Twitter came alive in the Aussie evening. Armed with a glass of wine, I’d chat with people I’d never met offline. We became friends. We hung out. We laughed. we frunk tweeted (frunk equals drunk, a term I believe coined by @bronwen). This was twitter when it was like the bar in Cheers – we all knew each other.

mediamum-twitter-600I used twitter before hashtags (stop. think of that for a second), and when you had to actually type RT instead of just hit a circular arrow. Back when the interface was plain and there were no third-party tools that you could use. Back when brands weren’t there. There were no twitter parties, no marketers, and we spoke of being fearful of their arrival. The Aussie twitterati each had about 300 followers.

After a few months, at about Christmas time (though I’m sure someone better than I will remember the exact date), someone in the Sydney Twitterati suggested having lunch together. A tweetup in the city, which had been done before, but I hadn’t gone along until now. Fifteen or so people decided to go. Off I went to the restaurant in Skygarden, in the middle of Sydney, nervous but excited to 3-D meet the people I’d hung out with daily online.

I arrived at the busy restaurant. Of course I didn’t know what the booking was made under, and the restaurant was enormous. I began looking around, trying to work out if anyone looked like an avatar. I tried to tweet them to ask where they were, but couldn’t get a connection. More than six years ago, open wifi was not common in the middle of Sydney.

Feeling slightly awkward, I asked the hostess. “I’m having lunch with a large group of people – there’s a booking for about 15 of us. Do you know where they are?” She replied: “I don’t know. Just go in and walk around until you see them.” At that moment I knew how impossible and dumb my next words were, even as they came out of my mouth: “I don’t know what they look like.”

I took the exasperated look she gave me squarely on the chin, and walked in to look around. Was there a big group of people on their mobile phones? Did they look like the people I thought they would be? Process of elimination? What would work? And now I’ll admit I looked for the stereotype. I looked for a big group of people who looked techy – t-shirts, longer hair, that sort of thing. And I found them.

It was a really nice lunch although I remember feeling very self conscious and trying to be polite and quiet. I honestly do try to do this when I’m meeting new people. I really try hard to shut-the-hell-up. I think I fooled them pretty well, for that lunch at least. After that it all went downhill and they know me for the real me now.

That was over six years ago. It was when people said garbage like, “online friends are not really your friends.”

Some of the people at that lunch are still my close friends, we still tweet each other, share lives, loves, and losses. Our travels, relationship finding and relationship losing. Over the years, I shook hands and hugged most of those early adopter Aussie Twitterati. A couple of them have visited us in Colorado. Others remain friends of the heart, not yet met in 3-D. But they all know me. We are true friends.

Time’s moved on and Twitter has become something entirely different. You used to be able to ‘see’ all of Australia come online, and then say goodnight as America came on. Twitter was a cocktail party.

And then the world found out.

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