Let's talk about the power of Twitter. One of the coolest, and scariest, things about the internet — Twitter especially — is that you never know who might be watching. This very article is a result of a single tweet I sent out one afternoon a couple of months ago.
A guy I follow mentioned that someone should make a list of all of the "non-media types" on Twitter. I replied with something like, "Someone should write a whole story about them. There are some real characters." Less than one minute later, @panopticon13 offered me a cover story in City Pages. Twitter is an amazing thing.
I was tasked with interviewing 20 "normal" people from Twitter. Except none of them are really "normal" in the everyday-person sense of the word. Each person I interviewed has accumulated more than 1,000 followers without the backing of a major news organization or a professional sports team. None of them regularly headlines First Avenue, and there is really no reason I would have ever known they existed if it weren't for Twitter.
There are countless people I could have interviewed, each one just as interesting as the next. But for the purposes of this story I found 20 people who use Twitter in a unique way. While these people all use Twitter differently, they do have a lot in common. All of them believe that their lives are better because of the community they have found there.
Here is what 20 Twin Cities tweeters had to say about the influence Twitter has had on their lives:
Abigail Harrison, age 16, currently a high school student
Representative tweet: I'm so excited to welcome @astro_luca back to planet earth ...he will be arriving shortly!!!
Describe your account: My biggest dreams and goals, mixed with my everyday successes, failures, and funny happenings: In other words, it's me.
Explain Twitter in one sentence: Twitter is a format for ideas and interactions to be condensed into the most important pieces and shared with everyone.
One good thing about Twitter: Twitter has opened so many doors for me. Most importantly, it has shown me that there is a whole community of people who support my dream and also whom I can support as they dream big!
If you like @AstronautAbby, you'll also like @broglund and @SafyHallanFarah
Chey Eisenman, age 33, works as a cabdriver
Representative tweet: Earlier tonight SSP lady got into a cab, naked under coat. Thought her 'hot' body should get her a free ride to Mpls. It didn't.
Describe your account: How I engage, educate and entertain those interested in the unique view a cabdriver has on their community.
Explain Twitter in one sentence: The pulse of our community and world with just the scroll of a finger.
One good thing about Twitter: Things break on Twitter before they break on the news. I work the streets and it allows me to be on top of what is happening. Kenny Olson (@MSP_Traffic) is the god of traffic.
Twitter pet peeve: #TheWaySomePeopleUseHashtags
Anything else? The public knows very little about the cab industry. And the cab industry is often secretive and defensive. I wanted to bridge the gap of misunderstanding between the rider and the driver. It is also my way of giving folks a glimpse into my backseat.
If you like @CheyCab, you'll also like @ampersandria and @birdchick
Jason Zabel, age 26, works as a creative at Zeus Jones
Representative tweet: woke up early to write poetry for a cereal brand. feeling spr zen. happy hump day.
Describe your account: Influential topics include coffee, Katy Perry, and oppression.
Explain Twitter in one sentence: Twitter is like instant messenger except that usually you're not talking to anyone in particular; you're just putting out bait, hoping to get a nibble.
Do your friends use Twitter? Most of my friends have Twitter accounts, but not all of them use it because they prefer IRL interactions or are insecure about their writing ability or they think they do not have anything to "add to the conversation," or they believe that social media is slowly killing us.
One good thing about Twitter: One time I made a joke about a certain famous rapper, and he wrote back almost instantly: "FUCK YOU, I COULD GIVE A SHIT," or some clever retort. I think I shook with laughter for about 20 minutes.
One bad thing about Twitter: Same answer.
Twitter pet peeve: There are many marketing types on Twitter who use the tool as a kind of personal promotion machine, or to show how good they are at #social. They use #hashtags constantly to talk about #b2b #communications #strategy, or to say something like, "Just attended the #GreatCOMMconf12 and couldn't be more #inspired about #growth in the #person2person #leveraging #tools sector! Thanks, @[insertmarketingtwittercelebwhohostedtheevent]."[page]
If you like @jasonzabel, you'll also like @thanland and @emoeby
Kate O'Reilly, age 38, makes things happen for a living
Representative tweet: Enough about my stuff! What cool stuff are you making right now?
Describe your account: Your mom, your sister, your pithy BFF.
Explain Twitter in one sentence: A filter of likemindedness. (Or the opposite of that, depending on how your brain works.)
One good thing about Twitter: I have obtained my last eight projects via Twitter.
Twitter pet peeve: Bodily function tweets of any and all kinds.
Anything else? The stuff you keep to yourself says a lot about you.
If you like @cleverkate, you'll also like @jonmbauer and @jjmillard
Ben Brausen, age 31, works as a social media manager
Representative tweet: Today's cask at @BarleyJohns is Stockyard IPA with ghost chilies, fresh lime juice, & coriander. #MNBeer
Describe your account: Whatever I'm feeling or thinking along with craft-beer-related news.
Explain Twitter in one sentence: 140-character doses of everything imaginable.
One good thing about Twitter: I've connected with a lot of great people and shared a lot of great banter. Twitter is a great tool to get your voice heard, while also learning a lot yourself. I have also shared a lot of great beers with a lot of great people.
One bad thing about Twitter: Lots of dead phone batteries.
Twitter pet peeve: There are plenty but two that stick out are #hashtags #for #every #word and people that tweet every play in a sports event. Thanks for the play-by-play John Madden.
If you like @BeerBrewin, you'll also like @JZossMPLS and @tniver
Megan Weisenberger, age 25, works in digital strategy/community management at General Mills.
Representative tweet: regretting not making a bingo card for northern grade. squares: ironic mustaches, artisanal canoe paddles, aloof stances
Describe your account: A girl who gets excited about a lot of things, particularly books, wine nights, sulky music, and red lipstick.
Explain Twitter in one sentence: WE ALL HAVE A LOT OF OPINIONS.
Have you met friends on Twitter? So many! I've stopped feeling sheepish about the phrase "yeahhh, I met him/her on Twitter" because I DID AND IT'S AWESOME AND I LOVE THE INTERNET.
Time spent online every day: Skipping this question, because the answer is shameful.
One good thing about Twitter: I laugh out loud at least 87 times a day at all of you funny, beautiful people.
One bad thing about Twitter: I'm genuinely concerned my brain has lost the ability to write anything longer than 140 characters.
Twitter pet peeve: "RT if you like the pointless shit we're talking about! Please, PLEASE just RT us. Really. Please." Brand tweets make me want to fork my eyes out.
If you like @foyobli, you'll also like @brenface, @_omgigi_, and @alexinthecity
Patrick Stephenson, age 30, works as MPR's creative services writer
Representative tweet: This weekend passed as fast as 1999's Lance Armstrong got up a mountain.
Describe your account: I have many opinions and I am passionate about many things, including bikes, caffeine, menswear, cats, the news, the human condition, the cinema, and books.
Explain Twitter in one sentence: Twitter is a news forum, a performance art stage, a broadcasting platform, a self-tailored shrine to yourself, and a bad joke repository.
Have you met any friends on Twitter? All of them. I wish I weren't serious. That includes my fiancée. I don't discriminate or anything, but if you don't use Twitter, there's something missing from our interactions.
One good thing about Twitter: Thanks to a friendship formed through Twitter, I found a portal to MPR.
One bad thing about Twitter: I have the attention span of a gnat. I think 140 characters at a time.
If you like @patiomensch, you'll also like @petebasgen and @herlovesapony
Jake Nyberg, age 33, works as a partner at a creative production company
Representative tweet: Every time I hear T.I. I think about Joe Mauer. I think that was his goal.
Describe your account: 3 parts baseball, 2 parts beer and food pictures, 1 part politics, 1 part advertising, 1 part music, 3 tablespoons DeLorean jokes, and a dash of nipple slips.
Explain Twitter in one sentence: The best and worst thing to ever happen to the Internet.
One good thing about Twitter: You don't have to go to a bar to have a conversation with other people.
One bad thing about Twitter: You don't have to go to a bar to have a conversation with other people.
Twitter pet peeve: Lack of scratch-and-sniff tweet technology. It's gotta be coming soon, but really should have been here by now.[page]
Something your followers might not know about you: I consider quitting Twitter about once a month.
If you like @jakenyberg, you'll also like @RandBallsStu and @MnTwinkie
Kara Nesvig, age 25, works at Len Druskin, also a freelance writer
Representative tweet: Good morning Gaviidae valets I hope you like Juicy J
Describe your account: Minneapolis' own Marilyn chatters about lipstick, the skyway system, and Jalapeno Cheetos.
Explain Twitter in one sentence: I always imagine Twitter as this weird vortex kind of like the Sims where people just mill about babbling; sometimes you engage with them and sometimes you ignore what they have to say.
One good thing about Twitter: I started dating one of my boyfriends via a flirty Twitter exchange.
One bad thing about Twitter: I'm on it a lot.
Twitter pet peeve: People who retweet their horoscope. People who act "holier than thou" in light of a national crisis. People who use the hashtag #blessed. People who use hashtags. People who act like they don't know you when you meet in real life. If you engage with me on Twitter, say "hi" to me when we run into each other. It's not weird.
If you like @myfakeyelashes, you'll also like @LizWelle and @mlmccarty
Andy Erikson, age 26, works as a standup comedian and graphic designer
Representative tweet: I'm going to start an animal charity that makes blaze orange vests for deer.
Describe your account: Jokes for weird people.
Explain Twitter in one sentence: It's like the news, except a very opinionated squirrel, a 13-year-old girl, and a racist gumball machine are in charge.
Do your friends use Twitter? Cats don't know how to use computers, silly. And by "cats" I mean just the one cat.
One good thing about Twitter: I have improved as a joke writer, and have laughed much more than I ever thought I could. I have a lot of amazingly funny Twitter friends.
One bad thing about Twitter: It has ruined episodes of Breaking Bad for me. Not the finale, thank God! But I now have to avoid Twitter when I'm invested in a TV show.
Something your followers might not know about you: I have a secret Twitter account called @mariesFatJeans where I post tweets too offensive or dirty for my main feed.
If you like @andyerikson, you'll also like @JosephScrimshaw and @m3ggiesue
Marina Maric, age 36, works as a public relations counselor at Ainsley Shea
Representative tweet: Swants (sweater pants) — Let's not make this a "thing", OK?
Describe your account: Movie trailers, pictures of Ryan Gosling, and rants about Comcast customer service.
Explain Twitter in one sentence: Where everybody knows your name, which is also the theme song for the TV sitcom Cheers.
Time spent online every day: ALL the time.
One good thing about Twitter: It aggregates the information I need and want to see. It literally keeps me sane.
One bad thing about Twitter: Are you kidding? I love Twitter!
Twitter pet peeve: The fact that Benedict Cumberbatch hasn't joined yet.
Something your followers might not know about you: A girl's gotta have secrets, don't you think? #nodisrespecttomyfollowers
Anything else you'd like to add? Don't tweet and drive!
If you like @marrina, you'll also like @toddodowd and @jahnapeloquin
Ali Lozoff, age 43, works as a marketing manager at Minnesota Public Radio & American Public Media
Representative tweet: I wish there was a test that had to be passed before access was granted to social media. Just a simple pass-fail would be fine. SO MUCH FAIL
Describe your account: Conversations with an anti-social butterfly.
Explain Twitter in one sentence: You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life.
Twitter pet peeve: I hate that I can no longer mention pet peeves on Twitter without getting pinged by a celeb spokesperson or intern or PR lackey. I complained about how terrible a movie looks (I mean, really Last Vegas?) and IMMEDIATELY got a snarky tweet back from the movie studio. Seriously? Stuff like that takes all the fun out of it for me. If I wanted to engage with that company or product, I'd use the @ or #. I know how those functions work, thank you very kindly.
Anything else? My Twitter philosophy is similar to a cocktail party and the same rules of civility should apply. If that party is full of jerks who make you feel bad every time you try to talk to them, or yell at you whenever you try to make a point, you should leave that party. And just like at a party, sometimes you have some deep conversations with one person, sometimes you make a few jokes with a few people, and sometimes you just make a quick pass through the room and head out. Don't take it too seriously, have fun, and you should probably leave around midnight.[page]
If you like @AliLozoff, you'll also like @DanaWessel and @kshoop
Sarah Edwards, age 28, works as marketing director at Pixel Farm, fashion stylist, creator/producer of I AM MPLS! & I AM Kindness
Representative tweet: To the girl downtown in the Carhart overalls and floral Dr. Martens...YES!
Describe your account: My Twitter account includes a lot of fashion selfies mixed with Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen photos and info regarding my side projects, I AM MPLS! and I AM Kindness.
Have you met any friends on Twitter? I haven't met close friends, but I have met locals that are doing things that I enjoy keeping tabs on. People like @lulugrim & @grantspanier definitely inspire me.
One good thing about Twitter: Twitter has been awesome for getting the word out about my passion projects and also informally introducing people that I believe should be connected.
One bad thing about Twitter: After doing this interview and rereading my tweets, it made me realize I'm not very funny on Twitter. In real life I'm really funny.
If you like @IamSarahEdwards, you'll also like @heydodes, @Jen_Boyles, and @ilovedavee
Age 27, works at a place and performs various photographic tricks
Representative tweet: I think, for the most part, people named Randy do their own thing all the time.
Describe your account: Not the best.
Explain Twitter in one sentence: Very easy for me to talk about animals doing human stuff.
Do your friends use Twitter? A lot of them do. My mom uses it to monitor me.
How long did it take you to reach 1,000 followers? I reached 1,000 followers right after a really nice tweet about bread.
One bad thing about Twitter: My wife left me.
Twitter pet peeve: When people chew with their mouths open.
If you like @shittyideasguy, you'll also like @PrinceTweets2U and @MPLSweatherctr
Leif Brostrom, age 26, works as a social media and web specialist at TPT
Representative tweet: When I get Google Glass I'm only going to use it so I can watch The Office on repeat from start to finish until I perish.
Describe your account: If you enjoy French, cats, music, TV, and cheese, you've found your home.
Explain Twitter in one sentence: Somebody, please listen to me.
Do your friends use Twitter? New friends, yes. If we've been friends since before 2005, probably not. Pushing boundaries.
Have you met any friends on Twitter?
Certainly. Many folks in the music industry and I have connected and flourished through the tweets. Many people with bright ideas and sincere passions are so easy to connect with through the network.
One bad thing about Twitter: Maybe we shouldn't be allowed to tweet on the weekends after 10 p.m. Where are my keyboard goggles?
Twitter Pet Peeve: "@" is not "at" when tagging where you are. Example: "I'm at @firstavenue", not "I'm @firstavenue." C'mon, dog.
Anything else? Keep it to yourself. But that's not what Twitter is for, is it?
If you like @leiftheviking, you'll also like @dennisjansen, @grantspanier, and @AmandaOleson
Kevin Watterson, age 32, currently looking for a PR job. Previously did PR and communications in the state Legislature.
Representative tweet: FUTURE BREAKING: After tabulating the votes in Excel, the next mayor of Minneapolis is #DIV/0!.
Describe your account: It amuses me, and that's all that matters.
Explain Twitter in one sentence: It is the closest thing to a real American Honky-Tonk Bar Association that we'll ever get.
Have you met any friends on Twitter? I was genuinely surprised by the number of people who reached out to wish me well or offer their help after I left my job late last year. If feeling excited, happy, appreciative or hopeful for someone you've never met counts as being friends — and I like to think it does — then yes.
One good thing about Twitter: Some have accused me of being a Twitter-based online algorithm. I would like to address them now: Beep.
One bad thing about Twitter: Most of my thoughts are less than two sentences anyway, and Twitter sometimes sends that into overdrive. To break out of it I'll log off for a while or give myself something to really dig into that ... hey pancakes!
Twitter pet peeve: Oh. ICYMI, Please RT, Must-read, Favorite for ____, RT for ____, I just posted a photo to Facebook, scheduled self-promotional tweets, tweets clearly not written by the public figure whose name appears on the account, people who never interact, Instagram links, people who don't fill out their profile. Mostly just those things ... mostly, you guys.[page]
If you like @kwatt, you'll also like @andygifford and @WentRogue
Leslie Plesser, age 38, works as a photographer
Representative tweet: Today's adventure included photographing a famous cat. #livingthedream
Describe your account: There's a whole helluva a lot of music, dogs, college basketball, and photography.
Explain Twitter in one sentence: Twitter is a quick (and addictive) way to catch up with the people and interests you care about most.
One bad thing about Twitter: The fear of missing out. This year I started running my own business full time, and I no longer have the time (or energy) to go out as often as before — but I still see all my buddies on Twitter (and Instagram) out having a great time.
Anything else? I hear loads of people say that they don't "get" Twitter and that they don't care about what people had for lunch. But it is so much more than that. If you follow the right people, you can learn so much about the community you live in, and it can serve as an amazing networking tool.
If you like @plesserchick, you'll also like @MNKartarik and @Jalbus
Kyle Matteson, age 35, works in IT at the University of Minnesota
Representative tweet: And out comes the sitar.
Describe your account: A bearded, beer drinking, music nerd with an affinity for laughter, ironic beverages, and late night fast food runs with friends.
Explain Twitter in one sentence: On any given day it can be one of the greatest or the worst inventions of the 21st century, but it's usually the former.
One good thing about Twitter: I have met almost all of my friends from going to concerts or via Twitter. It has opened up my mind to so many more people, personalities, and viewpoints, which has helped break down traditional communication and social group walls, allowing me to be a lot more outgoing than I was prior to joining Twitter.
One bad thing about Twitter: Like any sort of media or entertainment source, it's easy to get too wrapped up and to take things personally. Considering the real-time nature of Twitter, often times my fingers type faster than my brain can actually process exactly what and how I'm saying something, which tends to get me in a bit of trouble on occasion. But, I'm getting better at taking a few seconds to re-read what I wrote before hitting send.
Twitter pet peeve: Overly negative people. I am not saying you can't or shouldn't complain about things on Twitter, but take a look at your feed every so often and see how much of it is negative vs. positive. Sometimes you might not even notice it, but trust me, others do.
If you like @solace, you'll also like @brokenhalo, @marythayer, and @scullness
Becky Lang, age 26, works as a creative at Zeus Jones
Representative tweet: Cracklin Oat Bran is a cereal name that starts really exciting and then kinda flattens out to boring town.
Describe your account: Mostly blunt reactions to TV, like what happens when the doctor hits your knee and you kick without thinking.
Explain Twitter in one sentence: What observant bored people do.
Have you met any friends on Twitter? No, mostly Facebook and Tumblr. Twitter is for assuming someone tolerates you cuz they fave your tweets sometimes.
One good thing about Twitter: It makes watching awards shows so much more fun. It's like a getting a million free jokes about Taylor Swift at once.
One bad thing about Twitter: It inspires some really dumb commercials, like that Subway commercial where the guys are like, "#gimme #mine! #mouthwatering #yum! #onebiteplease?" You don't need to talk like that to make me want a sandwich.
Twitter pet peeve: I don't really like when people end tweets with "And that is all." It's like the most self-conscious mic drop or something.
Something your followers might not know about you: I started jokingly referring to myself as MillennialSpark at work and now my bosses often introduce me to clients as "millennial expert." So now I think the joke is on me.
If you like @leckybang, you'll also like @katewordsmith, @katiesisneros, and @Neubs_ebooks
Patrick, age 25, works as an IT geek
Representative tweet: Your baby probably isn't cute. It probably looks like Winston Churchill. That's still awesome, though.
Describe your account: One man's journey through the abyss.
Explain Twitter in one sentence: A local tavern full of characters that you carry around in your pocket.
Do your friends use Twitter? Most of my friends have a Twitter presence, but I have found there are three kinds of people: those who frequently use Twitter, those who have an account but use it sparingly, and those who are disgusted with the concept. I would suspect that my friends are distributed fairly evenly throughout the three categories.[page]
Twitter pet peeve: Blocking people. I have been blocked by a lot of people over the years, and I don't get the point. Twitter is an ecosystem and blocking others is a detriment to the community. If you're being stalked or harassed it's one thing, but the trolls who have taken a liking to me have quickly gotten bored with my non-reciprocation.
If you like @panndder, you'll also like @chris_steller and @_taylor_