15 Ways Twitter helped me grow as a person
Posted by Bella Rosa
I joined Twitter just a little over 10 years ago this fall. I can’t remember whether I joined as a fad, as an alternative to LiveJournal, or as a valiant attempt to connect to those I adored. While my time on Twitter hasn’t always been consistent or notable, I have grown to rely on this medium as one of my primary means of engagement, expression, and community. Throughout my life, I’ve utilized technology to connect to people in ways that aren’t always available in real life. I mean, back in my early adolescence I played around on QLink, then AOL – and got a lot of disappointed, angry looks from my dad when I spent more than our paid time. College was more AOL, law school was MySpace and eventually LiveJournal.
But Twitter is a different animal – it has fluffy content and deep rabbit holes. It has the best (@DanRather) and worst of humanity (He Who Shall Not Be Named). It has gifs & clapbacks, sweet tenderness juxtaposed on the timeline with porn & politics. It takes a strong stomach sometimes, but when you find a community and a group of people worth following, it can be a wonderful experience.
This week I reached 2500 followers. More than 70% of whom only started following me in the past 3 years. During that same period, I’ve experienced a significant growth in my career, my relationships, my confidence, and my mental health. I think there is something to be said for at least so new people drawn into my orbit since I decided to start healing myself. I have learned from them, created a community with them, and now celebrate all the ways in which that medium, and more importantly, the people who use it, have influenced my world in such a positive way.
Here are the ways Twitter has influenced my life – in no particular order:
- #BlackLivesMatter: I came back to Twitter primarily to follow news from Ferguson and to listen, follow and promote the voices of those most impacted – black men and women. This movement had a significant influence on my outlook, on my own privilege, on my own responsibility to recognize and draw attention to the fatal inequalities, toxic fear, and persistent injustices that our black friends and neighbors have to navigate on a daily basis.
- Cheaters Revealed: Yes, even though I’m polyamorous, I’ve been cheated on. I had suspicions for years, but Twitter was the most useful evidence. And while this might sound like it’s a sad thing, I am gloriously grateful that in finding this proof, I had more strength to resist the terrible gaslighting that had controlled our relationship for far too long.
- FanGirls (and boys) Unite: So much love to my friends at Tahmoh’s Tribe (Tahmoh Penikett fans) and Cuddle Puddle Nation (Aleks Paunovic fans): these two fan groups have become fiercely loyal friends over the years. By extension I also include the Supernatural fandom & the Battlestar fandom. Through interacting with these fans I have found a lovely group of intelligent, aware and hilariously joyful friends who share in the real world and screen captured adventures of our favorite crushes. And while there have been a few that have revealed themselves to be shady, the core group of fans sometimes border on the risqué (which I adore) but are quite protective of boundaries, mindful of consent and considerate of their crushes as well as fellow fans. Well done!
- The Resistance is not futile: The election was a shitshow and Twitter gave me an impulse-friendly outlet to express my grief, anger, fear, and solidarity with so many others feeling the same thing. Yes, Facebook was useful, but a week after the election I was tired of being lectured to about politics as if I was a child. I was tired of infighting between Bernie Bro friends and Pantsuit Nation devotees. I got weary of countering every 12 paragraph argument with another 12 paragraph argument. I didn’t need a dissertation on the rationale of the Trump voter; I needed a call to action, a cause to rally behind, an outlet for the toxic stress that Trump’s policies cause me in my day job. The Resistance on Twitter has provided that and more.
- Drawing Boundaries: On Twitter, most of my followers are strangers, which poses some fun issues for a people pleaser like myself. But in interacting with strangers, it has afforded a unique opportunity to practice setting boundaries, including setting the expectation that I deserve to be paid for my time. Because I have less invested in the opinions of others, I’ve been able to grow more comfortable with setting boundaries than I have ever been able to my whole life. This has, in turn, liberated me and given me the courage to practice setting better boundaries in my real life.
- Tiptoeing Through Fear of Overexposure: I know that title alone is inviting trouble. I’ve been outed once and I can’t endure a situation like that ever again. But with my interactions on Twitter, I’ve seen so many fabulous examples of people living their lives out loud, that it has helped ease my insecurities about my tendency to be Capt. Overshare in my electronic and daily life. While I’m still not fully comfortable, I’ve been making it a point to be seen more often.
- Dating J: I haven’t posted much about this man in my life. I can’t call him new because we went on a date a few years back and immediately shit started getting complicated in our personal lives. He stuck with me, continued following me on Twitter and chatting with me until I agreed to meet him again at the beginning of the year. Neither of us have felt like attaching a name to our connection, we just know it makes both us and our partners happy.
- Bisexual Twitter: This particular corner of the internet has been highly influential as I define how I view my sexuality in my 40’s. I hadn’t realized how many bisexual stereotypes and patterns of erasure I had internalized and that contributed to adverse mental health over the years. It wasn’t until counter messages were popping up all over my feed every day, that I finally broke the spell and started fighting back against the erasure I had been facing throughout my communities. God bless BiTwitter.
- Kickstarter/GoFundMe/Patreon: I wish I had limitless resources to be able to support every project, every artist, every cause. But even when I can’t financially contribute to the people and places I love, I can at least promote the projects that matter to them. Through Twitter, I’ve been able to promote funding for movies, artists, activists, nonprofits, and political causes. Even if I can’t afford philanthropy, I can pass along information to the people who can, connecting people who can support each other.
- #MeToo: This movement, more than any other, has given me a language and a framework for what I’ve experienced in my life. The history of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and consent violations has been very difficult to weigh against my role as a woman, a sex/consent educator and even as a sexually liberated adult. As I’ve wrestled with the impact of those events on my identity and my history, I have been comforted by the fact that I’m not alone. We are in the midst of a massive awakening, a reckoning of years of being tossed aside, blamed and intimidated into silence and seeing the courage of others helps me find the courage to be my true self.
- Sex Educators, Sex Workers, Sexy People: In this long journey I’ve had in really owning my true self, I have been inspired by those who work in the sex industry. Their authenticity, humanity, and humor are all a breath of fresh air when I feel like I don’t quite belong. They remind me that there’s room for all of us to share – they cheer each other on and applaud triumphs together. They pull together with swift action to denounce companies with unethical practices or bad actors who abuse their power. I have crushes on all of them, but more than anything I think the work they’re doing is influential and important.
- Three Little Leos: About two years ago, I had a curious confluence of Leo men in my DMs. One in London, one in LA, another in Texas. Each of them tugged at a tread of unsettling paranoia in me. The first was insanely jealous and even though he knew I was polyamorous, he kept wishing for exclusivity. The second was fiercely protective of his privacy, his importance begging the unanswered question of why he was attracted to me. The final one would beg and beg for photos only to send disembodied photos of a ripped body unbidden and without explanation – face shots not allowed. All three would ghost me eventually. From each, I would learn to better guard my heart, my image, and my hopes while knowing that I deserve better than what any of them were capable of offering.
- Threading Tweets: One of my favorite features is the ability to thread tweets together in a real-time narrative of my most impulsive thoughts. Twitter threads are as close to “stream of consciousness” posts that my perfectionism will ever allow. And while I want to take some of those subjects to expand on those ideas, being able to pull those ideas together under an originating thought or RT is one of my favorite ways to use this medium – like composing little mini blog posts.
- Flirty Emoji by GIF: Back in the old LiveJournal days, we had mood icons that sometimes featured small little gifs (I rotated between Battlestar Galactica & Moulin Rouge). It’s been a feature I’ve really missed over the years. But with Twitter, I get to respond in gif with those moods. Some of my best flirting online has been done through gifs – especially with women I’m attracted to. So much easier sometimes to use to a gif than announce with actual words the blush-inducing feelings that I have.
- Local Life: I admit, during the times I haven’t been a recluse hiding away inside my house writing, I confined myself only to the sex-positive communities in the local area. Instead, I’ve started broadening my horizons and have found local gamers, geeks, drinkers, journalists, and activists. And through them, I’ve been slowly rediscovering my city – taking me back into the communities that I love, slowly warming the protective layers around my heart. I’m starting to expand who I include in my real life.
Some of these things seem so simple, but the meaning behind them, the community, the people who I’ve connected with – these blessings matter most to me I’m not here to gain popularity (it honestly scares me a bit), but I am here to share the lessons I’ve learned along the way and to show how I’m trying to apply those lessons to my real life. My message may not resonate with everyone but for the people who are here, I’m very honored to be trusted by you. Thank you for joining me, giving me a place I can belong and sharing your own beautiful truths with me.
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