Tweetup, penfriends, postcards and bookmarks

Last night I attended my first ever Tweetup, very well organised by tweeting legals – thank you so much for an excellent evening! It was an interesting and fun experience to meet in real life some of the people I’ve been communicating with online for quite some time. I am accustomed to meeting people I have already interviewed on the phone or by email, as this is how I do most of my work, but this was different.

Walking into a room where at first sight almost everyone was a complete stranger – I went with someone and met by chance one other person I had met previously – I didn’t even know their names, to find that among these unfamiliar faces were people I have shared music with, chatted in 140 character bursts late at night, received ‘virtual hugs’ at times of stress and offered and accepted the online equivalent of tea and sympathy. At first, I pondered on this strange experience of meeting and connecting with people on Twitter and then meeting them in person as an extension of social networking, a different dynamic from  meeting people and then connecting with them on Facebook or LinkedIn. Then I realised this was nothing new – it was more like meeting a series of penfriends for the first time. Who remembers penfriends – and the outpourings of teenage angst in letters and postcards?

And postcards – who sends postcard now? I’m not sure whether FourSquare or Twitter really capture the essence of a postcard, mostly because they are immediate. Photos posted on Facebook are your own images, instantly uploaded – possibly having first been manipulated by sophisticated digital technology. A postcard captures something of the essence the place you are visiting – how it sees itself, if you like – and your choice of postcard reflects how you see the place and who you are writing to – and of course whether there’s a reasonable selection of postcards! I always took quite a lot of time choosing and writing postcards. Memories of sitting in a foreign cafe writing some reflections – different ones depending on the purpose of my journey, and whether I was writing to family or friends. They always arrived long after you got back and they made great bookmarks – for books and life. Faded postcards fall out of books; mementos of people and places. When I visited Cuba earlier this year, which was like turning the clock back about 50 years, I sent just a few lovely old-fashioned postcards – they took eight weeks to reach the UK! And I bought some bookmarks.

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