Talking To Strangers

Since I came to Twitter, one thing has always puzzled me. We all talk to each other as though we have known each other for years but in my experience, most of us have never met.

Of all my Facebook friends, there is only 1 that I’ve never met – and I’m going on a bike tour with him in September. There is a mixture of people I went to school with, university friends, work friends, sports club friends, family, neighbours, other friends, etc, etc….

On Twitter however, I’ve met less than 10% of those I follow or who follow me. There are a few school, university friends and former colleagues but beyond that, everybody else I have met purely online in the strange world of Twitter.

Despite this lack of physical connection though, I often feel to have closer friends on Twitter than on Facebook. There are people there I can, and sometimes have, bared my soul to and who have on occasion done likewise to me. We discover each other’s likes and dislikes, loves and hates, fears and comforts in posts of 140 characters at a time yet somehow we end up as lifelong friends, helping each other out, offering comfort, sympathy, joy, laughter, you name it.

I have had discussions and conversations on Twitter that I would never have on Facebook or in real life. To me Twitter seems to have a strange anonymity that allows us to be more open with each other. Perhaps this comes from the fact that we are in a way talking to strangers. There is no past history or back story. We are not trying to maintain a perceived status or position within a social group. If we are open from the start, these strangers are choosing to follow us, or us them, with some knowledge of our position in the here and now, not who we once were.

I have found that talking to strangers has been very liberating. It has allowed me to express myself in a way that I would never otherwise would and I am grateful to all of you strangers who have taken the time to listen and help me along my journey. I hope that I can help some of you in return someday, I am always happy to listen and to talk. And if, someday, we meet up we will be strangers no more and virtual friends no more, not because we never talk again but because we will talk in the real world having already shared more than we probably would have done had we met a few years ago.

Who Do You Think You Are?

I’m not being aggressive and challenging you, “Who do you think you are?”. And I’m not stealing the idea from the TV and trying to find out who your great great grandmother was or whether she was the illegitimate offspring of Queen Victoria.

A question I was asked more than once during counselling sessions, and one I’ve asked myself a few times: Who is Nick? It seems like a bit of a strange question but one we should be able to easily answer. However, it is one I’ve struggled with everytime I’ve been asked. How do we actually describe ourselves and does that description define who we are.

When I worked in insurance it seemed easy, if anyone asked I’d just answer I’m an accident investigator. When I left that role and retrained, I was a plumber. Just over 2 years ago however, I pretty much stopped working as a result of my depression. I couldn’t bring myself to go out and do any jobs and all of a sudden, if anyone asked, I wasn’t sure who I was. I would still tell them I was a plumber but in my mind I didn’t actually know who or what I was. Was I still a plumber, was I a house husband, was I retired or was I something else?

Aside from my own feelings of not knowing, it left me thinking in greater detail about how we describe and define ourselves. If I asked you to tell me who you are, what would your answer be? Would you describe yourself as a mum or dad, student or teacher, lawyer, doctor, pilot, etc, etc, etc. Or are you Fred, Stan, Dawn or Anne? Or are you a combination of many things? 

In reality we are all a combination of a great many things, from our relationships, our professions, our friendships, our hobbies. We all have a great many roles that make us who we are yet we so often define ourselves by just our one main role. Is it just for simplicity because it’s too complicated to try and explain it all to someone? Is it because it’s a British societal norm to just give a one word answer? Or, is it because we’ve never really thought about what makes us who we are?

Perhaps most of the time it really doesn’t matter but when our circumstances suddenly change, what then? We might not consider it important to have a particular title but if you stopped doing what you do now and somebody then asked you who do you think you are, would you know how to answer?

For me now, who do I think I am? I’m a husband, home maker, dog walker, Taekwondo coach, very part time plumber, amateur climber, amateur cyclist, amateur skier, sometime diyer, occasional gardener and very amateur blogger, to name but a few things. I’m not just one thing now and I hope that I never will be just one thing again.

So if I ask you now, Who do you think you are? How will you answer?