The Power of Community
In the ten months that have passed since I became addicted to Twitter, I’ve seen the platform used in powerful and unexpected ways. It was the first place that I heard about several news events like the bridge collapse in Minneapolis and the tragic school shooting in Finland. It’s also been used to relay events as they are happening. David Armano (@armano) witnessed a teen save an elderly woman from being hit by an oncoming train. Armano posted updates of the events to his Twitter account immediately after it happened, long before either the Chicago Tribune or CNN posted their stories.
The most powerful thing for me continues to be the way Twitter facilitates the development of new and real friendships with people all around the world. At 140 characters per tweet, you certainly don’t develop these digital friendships overnight, but with a steady interaction over the course of weeks and months, you find yourself very much attached to these people. In many cases you interact with your digital friends more frequently than your physical friends and like your physical friends, these people are human; each with their own set of life’s ups and downs. When a digital friend shares good news, like the birth of a child or a promotion, the community responds with congratulations. Likewise, when they share bad news, like a sick child or the death of a parent, the community rallies around them with words of support and offers to help.
I’ve experienced this support from my digital friends first hand, so I knew that when Susan Reynolds (@susanreynolds), informed her Twitter followers that the had been diagnosed with breast cancer, the community would be there to support her. True to form, Susan created a blog to document her journey. In one of her first posts, Susan described how using bags of frozen peas helped to ease the pain following her biopsy. She jokingly named the blog “Boobs on Ice“. Shortly after, people started changing their Twitter avatars to “pea-vatars” and Cathleen Rittereiser (@cathleenritt) tweeted that we should all donate the cost of a package of frozen peas to a fund for cancer research. That little spark has now developed into a full-blown fund-raising campaign, named in Susan’s honor, called the Frozen Pea Fund.
As of this writing, at least
145 146 people have changed their avatars to a Pea theme. Members of the community are suggesting ideas for spreading the message. CK (@ckEpiphany) suggested contacting Green Giant or BirdsEye (there’s an opportunity). Someone else suggested communicating the campaign to the head guys at Twitter. Tonight’s conversation has been almost exclusively centered on Susan with people getting creative with their tweets, changing words so that they contain the letters “pea”. Some have gone so far as to change their Twitter name (on Frozen Pea Friday I’ll be @DougPEAcham).
Wow, talk about the power of community. I often get funny looks when I talk about Twitter with people who “don’t get it”. They have a hard time understanding why anyone would “waste” time talking telling perfect strangers what they are doing. I don’t see it as wasting time. I see it as investing in real and lasting friendships. Susan is going to have a small army of digital friends to support her tomorrow and over the coming weeks as she recovers from her surgery. It’s a community brimming with compassion and I’m humbled to be a part of it. Won’t you join us?