Carving a community in 140 characters or less

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February 17, 2011 by jessperriam

Last night, as I sat around at a cafe in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, a new found friend said, “You’re going to fit in really well here in Manchester.”

Moving to a new country on your own can be lonely. It can be a whole list of other things too, but loneliness is the biggest hurdle.

But there have been two ways I’ve overcome that sense of loneliness. The first one was making sure I found a church to go to straight away. That’s one of the blessings of identifying with a faith – as a new friend who’s Buddhist told me – no matter where you are you can find an organised set of like minded individuals.

But the other way I’ve made an entirely different network of friends is through an odd combination of coffee and Twitter.

Coffee and Twitter?

Yeah, I know. But. A fortnight ago I was on Twitter berating Manchester for not having any good coffee, so much so I’d bought myself a Moka pot so I wouldn’t waste money on bad coffee.

Then a cafe in Manchester started following my coffee ranting tweets. They professed to have good coffee, so I decided it was worth putting them to the test.

Result: Best coffee in Manchester made by people who can only be described as espresso perfectionists.

So now I’m on first name terms with the very pleasant owners of North Tea Power and chatting with fellow regulars.

But the story doesn’t end there. Through tweeting about the joy of finally finding good coffee, I got in contact with fellow antipodeans in the area, people who know people I might like to know, the list keeps going.

Social media has given me this ability to connect with people I wouldn’t get to otherwise, and it’s not an awkward introduction either.

Previous to moving overseas, I only really used Twitter for work, I’d tweet emergency warnings to the radio station’s audience, and also perhaps the talkback question of the day. Facebook was my social media weapon of choice – and it still is for keeping in contact with everyone back in Australia.

But here I am on the other side of the world, meeting more people through a tool that lets you communicate with only 140 characters at a time.

If you told me a month I’d carve out a community in Manchester by using Twitter, I’d have said you were mad. But here we are, it’s happened.

And they say technology makes us anti-social. Rather the opposite I’d say.

Follow me on Twitter @jessyp Don’t forget to say hello!

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