Saturday 4 December 2010

Turning a chrysalis into a butterfly (Twitter)

Used to be, someone saying 'she's such a nice person' made me wince. Used to be, being nice wasn't a personality trait people wanted to have. Connotations of naivety, stupidity, immaturity. No one can reach their 30's and be nice, there has to be some motivation, some manipulative reason, no one gives things for free without wanting something back.

It got old. Real old. And really uncomfortable, frankly. A curse to be dodged, unacceptable to demonstrate kindness. Hide it away, and get grumpier and grumpier because I'm appalling at pretending to be something I'm not.

Then I joined Twitter. You knew it was coming, right? Of course you did, if you're on Twitter. At first I thought it was just the mountain bikers who were lovely, sending kit off to people they'd never met cos they didn't want it any more and they couldn't be bothered to go through the hassle of actually selling it. Then, as I became more immersed in public sector streams and discussions, something became clear to me. For the first time in my life, I was a little bit spiky and a little bit sarky compared to most of the people around me. And it felt really really really good. But that's not the half of it.

There's the being smart thing. Everyone on Twitter with a few exceptions, is incredibly smart. Politically, technically....thousand different ways. Lots and lots and lots of incredibly intelligent people. All of whom are completely unapologetic about it. Comfortable with it. Don't flaunt it but don't hide it either. Bit of a revelation for a kid who's always been a little bit uncomfortable about admitting she knows stuff for fear of coming off as a complete smartass. Actually, to be honest, I got given so much shit at school for getting A's it all went downhill from there really. I just didn't want to stand out so I just didn't own up to knowing stuff. The first time I did a pub quiz with my other half and his friends (now my friends too, thank goodness) it was a bit of a revelation. People knowing stuff. Admitting knowing stuff. Competing to know stuff. Gosh. I knew none of the answers and it was fab. Utterly.

Essentially, those two simple things, suddenly being exposed to a massive amount of people who were nice and shared stuff 'cos it was the right thing to do' and who were smart and liked to think 'cos there's nothing wrong with that at all' have revolved my world.

Shy. Quiet. No opinions. Silent listener. Nothing to contribute. Head down. Invisible. Lacking motivation. Uninspired. Negative.

All those things. Especially the last. I told someone at work that the other day. They looked rather bemused. So they might. But I was. Terribly. And you know, there were reasons, and I'm wise enough standing where I do right now, to know they were good reasons and 99% of the rest of the population would have had the same life attitude I did, but nevertheless I'm not proud it took so long to flip things. I got bored and never learnt anything new to fill the holes. I got bored and never looked for challenges and things to absorb me. I was bored and couldn't see past the end of my nose in order to fix the problem.

You see, I didn't think I could change things. I didn't. Watching (seemingly) ordinary people do extraordinary things via Twitter means eventually there comes a slow realisation that actually, anything might be possible. You might be able to lose weight - person x is. You might be able to ride your bike further than you ever have before - person y did. You might be able to eventually set up your business and become your own boss - person z, a, b & c did. It's not nudge - it's something more than that.

The ability of social networking to expose hicks from dead end backwaters and families where aspiration is not a word ever uttered to thousands of people who do aspire,  do inspire, do strive, are driven, are nice, do try, are motivated, aren't negative?

The very demographics of the web currently mean that very few of you will know of the things I speak of. But if you do, then I suspect you too will know what I speak of. Social mobility. Looking from the bottom; up and asking the question, the fundamental question.

What can I do if I really, seriously, passionately and honestly, put my mind to it?

I'm 33 years old. I think, really, it might be a nice thing to do to try and work out how we can accelerate the process a little bit so it doesn't take the people I assume will come after me, quite so damn long to figure all this out. It's not a business plan. It's not a plan at all. But it's an acknowledgement, I think, that there will come a time when my current job or whatever comes after it wont be quite the right thing, despite my loving my current job and I suspect loving whatever may come after it, and that eventually, I must stop talking and start doing.

I only just grew my wings. But I'm going to flap them, because it's feels enormously selfish not to, somehow. Pick it up and pass it on.


  1. You're right - the danger is you might not realise how powerful you are. I stole that but it's true!