… Unless you are a tweeter.
People look at me, their expression a fixed mask of judgement.
“Twitter is so pointless.”
I’ve heard that one many times.
“You don’t even know her.”
I’ve heard that one even more often.
They just don’t understand.
I have been meaning to write something about this for a while, but I never got around to it.
What happened last night has inspired me to finally sit down and put into words what Twitter means to me.
Yesterday, a young women passed away unexpectedly. Tegan Henry (also known as @TegzAshley) was a young, vibrant, beautiful girl living in Cape Town. She was a popular tweeter, always really funny and genuine. Coincidentally, her cousin is one of my favourite people in the world and a dear friend.
Other than the conversations we have shared online and the distant connection her cousin brings us, I do not know Tegan.
Not traditionally. I have never met her.
Because of this, I will not write a blog post about her. That seems unfair to her friends and family, the ones who truly knew and loved her.
But I would like to talk about the impact her death has had on the South African Twitter community.
Yes. A community. A place where people show each other love and support.
True and lasting friendships form over Twitter. Romances blossom. It is, or it can be, an incredibly personal and intimate platform and you do develop close bonds with the people you interact with. One thing I have learnt the last few days, as I have been meeting more and more tweeps, is that I haven’t been engaging with local tweeters as much as I could have been. It turns out many of them meet up regularly and have become ‘real’ friends.
Tegan was one of these people.
And even though I know only a few tweeps in real life, I still feel like I have friends I can turn to online when I need them.
I posted a while ago that the main reason I tweet is because I’m lonely. I know, I know without a doubt, that when I am feeling lonely or sad there will be someone on Twitter who will send me a smile or a virtual hug. Who will tell me a joke to cheer me up or send me a DM offering a shoulder to cry on.
If you don’t tweet, you won’t understand it.
Twitter does not replace my real life interactions. I go out. A lot. I have friends, many of them. I lead, what I consider, a full and active life. Twitter is just another part of it, an extension. And it has allowed me to meet so many incredible people I may otherwise never have had a chance to interact with. My world has grown exponentially since I joined Twitter.
Tegan’s death has shown what a tight-knit community the South African tweeters have formed. The messages of love, support and pain that have been pouring in are unbelievable. Both heartbreaking and heartwarming.
The hashtag #RIPTegz trended first locally and then internationally. It stayed in the second spot worldwide for a while. This girl, this otherwise unknown, unremarkable girl, touched the lives of so many people simply through the tweets she posted. She made real friends. She was a source of entertainment and support for so many. And the grief being expressed at her death is genuine.
My grief is genuine.
To quote Tegan herself,
Someone once said that death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live
I would like to dedicate this post not only to Tegan, but to all the friends I have made. I have, in the year I have been tweeting, laughed and cried and screamed at my TL. I have flirted, I have teased. I have had so much fun. I have felt the pain of those going through tough times. I have wanted to reach into my screen and hug everyone at once. I have mourned death and celebrated new life. I have cheered people on as the reach goals and commiserated when things have not gone as planned.
I will not mention names. For one thing, I won’t be able to stop. But I feel you will know who you all are.
And I thank you.