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I can’t remember why I joined Twitter in the first place. Perhaps because of work. Or because of a friend suggesting it. But I can see on my profile that I joined in March of 2009. My first tweet was “Im not sure what Im doing” and my fourth tweet was “My goodness-I actually have people following what I have to say. How bored can you get??” (those first followers were my son, my husband, my cousin and two friends) I had already been on Facebook since 2007 and was very active there. I posted a lot and even still do. But I never just shared articles. When I shared something that I liked I always told why I was sharing it – what I thought about it. I also posted a lot of stuff about what I was doing or thinking or feeling. And I didn’t use those feeling icons to substitute for my own words. I wrote my own words. I liked talking – still do.  I guess I’m just a blabbermouth, with lots of opinions about things. But except for a very few people most of my contacts on Facebook were real people who I had actually known in Real Life. I rarely Friended people who I had never met or had only met once for a very short time. So this meant that most of the posting and sharing I did on Facebook went out to people who actually knew me in person.

Twitter was a whole different ball of wax.
First of all I had to confine myself to only 140 characters!! I like words. Words have meaning and nuance and syntax and even grammar. To say a whole idea in only 140 characters is very hard for me. As I said I’m a blabbermouth. So much nuance has to be removed in order to fit that parameter. I have spent my whole working life as a professional graphic designer – visuals not text. I have never considered myself an artist, a person who makes Art with a capital A – Art that is created to serve the artist’s own vision. I do commercial stuff. I like getting assignments. I like working within defined parameters. So I figured Twitter was just a matter of learning how to edit, to work to fit the parameter. Knowing how to and being able to edit is always a good thing.

Anyway, after 6 tweets in 2009 I didn’t do anything until about 4 years later when in 2013 I put up a new picture as my avatar. And then again nothing until March 2015 when I twittered this, “I’m following people’s tweets only due to my Outlander obsession.“.

Since then I’ve written 451 tweets, liked 1,217 tweets by others, I have 45 followers and I follow 136 mostly, total strangers. All because sometime in the late fall of 2014 I got introduced to Outlander, the Starz TV series and have been addicted ever since. I’ve read all the big, enormous books, most of the smaller novels and some of the bulges, as author Diana Gabaldon calls her handiwork. And I have of course watched the TV series’ first season episodes a zillion times and the second season episodes, so far shown, at least 3 or 4 times. I’ve probably watched most of any Outlander panel discussions and interviews with stars that I can find on the Internet. I joined the Facebook group called Outlander Sweden (since that is where I live) Both my husband and my 24 year old son think I’m a bit nuts (they thought that before but now they think they have evidence) And my former co-workers wouldn’t let me even mention the word Outlander at lunch breaks. I have one good friend here who I have caused to follow in my addiction. So yeah, I guess you could say I am a bit obsessed. You can read more about my obsession here. And here. And even here.

And now there’s Twitter
First, I have to get one thing straight – I don’t only post, read or share Outlander stuff on Twitter. I also post pictures from my summer house, I announce posts from this blog, sometimes a political opinion creeps into my posting, I also follow CNN, New Scientist and the New York Times among others. My Twitter posts also appear on my Facebook feed where my real-life pals like my posts or even respond. But yes, I admit it, most of what I do on Twitter has to do with Outlander. I’ve become a Fan! I’ve joined a Fandom! And its lots of fun. I read what Sam or Caitriona or Tobias or Graham or Ron or Diana or Maril or Terry or JON GARY or a bunch of others involved with the series have to say. In some ways I feel like I know them. But I never cross the line to think that they are my actual friends or I am their personal friend. What I am reading are the public personas of the private people that they really are. A tiny glimpse that they allow me to see. And I am grateful for that.

As a former Fashion Design student in my way-back-when life I like reading what the Outlander costume designer Terry Dresbach posts. She often starts really interesting discussions in 140 characters. Sometimes I have been able to partake in those discussions. Once, at 2am, lying in bed with my smart phone glued in front of my nose, desperately trying to keep up with a fascinating discussion, I rapidly typed out a comment to the conversation and suddenly Terry answered my question! I sat up in bed and yelled, “Oh My Gosh! She answered my question!” My husband, suddenly awakened, looked at me as if I was crazy and told me to please go to sleep. I have to admit, from that moment I felt like I was talking to someone I knew. It was really cool. I’ve followed and even participated in a number of other conversations started by Terry and always enjoyed them. The very fact that I can be sitting in my home, having discussions with people from all over the world at the same time is just amazing.

But it seems like there is trouble in paradise.
It seems like there are twitterers out there who feel like they have the right to say whatever they want or feel to the people they follow; who feel like they have the right to be mean, to chastise, to demand attention, to spread rumors without any regard to how their 140 characters can hurt the people they are aimed at. And in addition there are others who feel they themselves have been terribly hurt and thus have the right to hurl hurt back at anyone they can. The Internet can be a fantastic place but its defining anonymity can also cause it to be a very terrible place. So all I seem to be reading from my favorite Twittering people is how twitterers are throwing mud at each other, blaming others for feeling hurt and abused.

As a kid growing up I remember being called a lot of unpleasant names. Tall, skinny, freckled and with out of control curly dark auburn hair; beanpole, stringbean, jolly green giant were just some of the things I got to hear thrown at me. My mother telling me that “Sticks and stones can break your bones but names will never hurt you” didn’t really make me feel better. I knew that names definitely could hurt me. I had to learn very early that the names people threw at me didn’t define what I thought of myself. Perhaps I just learned to grow a thick skin. And I learned to develop a very fine-tuned sense of humor about things. Maybe the younger generation, a product of helicopter parents have never learned the lessons that I did, never learned how to grow a thick skin.

As I said earlier 140 characters are not really enough to convey nuance. In response to all this recent discussion of misery and unhappiness on all sides, I posted a tweet that was trying to remind people that 140 characters do not always offer enough nuance to accurately be able to distinguish between humor, irony and satire and what might be meant as a joke could sound like an attack. It can be very easy to misinterpret what is actually being said and a bit of a sense of humor was necessary when responding to those few characters. I suggested that people should lighten up. I was accused of possibly sounding dismissive and unfairly minimizing other people’s feelings – two things I was most definitely not doing. My #lightenup was being offered as a bit of humor but that obviously wasn’t coming through and it was judged to be judgmental instead and assumed to be hurtful.

There are plenty of other things out there to feel hurt and sad and just plain awful about: child slavery, climate change, decimation of animal species, ocean acidification and the bleaching of coral reefs, poverty, hunger, lack of clean drinking water, small children picking up a gun and killing their parents. Go ahead, pick one to feel bad about. But don’t let 140 characters, without any nuance, do that to you. Its really not worth it.

My mother also used to say, “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again”. She didn’t make that up either – she got it from the song but there she was actually right. So I am going to paraphrase what Terry said (if she allows me to) “Hopefully we are all done now.” And even if she feels that she and Ron will never get closure, she still felt ready to say, “I am moving on.”

And on one final note, as a fan, I am remembering our own favorite Jamie Fraser, telling his daughter how he was able to forgive and move beyond the terrible things that Jack Randall had done to him. (If this is a spoiler for non-book readers, then I am sorry) Can we in the fandom be any less than our favorite hero? Can we forgive? Can we move on? Can we take what is written in 140 characters not so to heart but with a bit of humor and try to expect the best of people rather than the worst so that I can wholeheartedly enjoy following my obsession once again? Life is much nicer that way too. IMHO.

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