Character Of The Day: @hemmo & @salihughes
“People who aren’t on Twitter regularly often struggle with its purpose. The assumption is that you tell strangers what you had for breakfast, tweet a few lame puns about unsubstantiated news reports, and feel yourself exceptionally interesting and adored. Gradually, it takes over from real people, real life, and before you know it, you’ve withdrawn from the outside world and you’re living a sort of half life online, desperately hitting refresh to maintain the constant, hollow buzz of instant, fleeting feedback. But while there are clearly those for whom social networking is more a hindrance than a gift, I think most regular users will have found that after the initial excitement (and yes, mild addiction), real life returns to the fore, and in fact, is only enhanced by Twitter.
I can’t count the number of friends I’ve made on Twitter. Real friends who started out as a username and a tiny avatar, but on whom I could now call in any crisis. I see these people every single week – for lunch, chats, wine, work meetings – just as I do my longer standing pre-internet friends, and feel immensely grateful to Twitter for being so great at bringing together people with similar jobs, attitudes, interests and sense of humour, via what I still believe is the most democratic, unforced and natural method of social networking on the internet.
@Hemmo is one of the best examples of this. I started following her in 2009 when my friend Caitlin ‘Follow Fridayed’ her, ie. recommended Hemmo’s tweets to her followers. Later that day, Hemmo tweeted that she preferred older, chubbier Morrissey to the young, rakish one, and I responded with several tweets listing all the famous men whose hotness had increased exponentially along with their waistlines (Matthew Perry and Alec Baldwin, for two). She followed me back, did the same, and we spent all afternoon on it. We quickly realised we had a great number of professional contacts in common (we’re both journalists) and had been invited to the same book launch later that week. We arranged to meet for a drink at the party.
Because of that initial Twitter conversation, Hemmo is now quite a big part of my life. We speak every day, almost without fail. She lives relatively close by and we see each other often for tea/wine and chats. My kids absolutely adore her (and always call her by her Twitter moniker, rather than her real name, Alex, which still makes me hysterical). We have the spare keys to one another’s houses. She sometimes babysits for me, or I’ll fetch and carry things for her in my car. We threw a joint birthday party this year and are even discussing plans for Christmas. We’ve been a big support to one another during more trying times, not least when Hemmo literally saved my life during a near-fatal anaphylactic shock in February (she managed to resist Twitpic-ing a photo of me, semi-naked, swollen and grey on my hospital drip). Months later, I was there to cheer her over the finish line at this year’s London Marathon, and felt immensely proud of her achievement.
Hemmo is now such a familiar part of my life’s furniture that I usually forget to tweet her, which is ironic given that Twitter introduced us. And I think that’s a good sign. Despite the criticism directed at social networking, I’ve long since believed that Twitter can make important friendships happen. But I also know that it’s real life that makes them last.”
“I agree with almost everything Sali says here – Twitter expanded my world in an almost entirely positive way, and the lasting friendships that I have kept as a result of it are testament to that. Consequently, it thrills me that we both look so cross with each other in this picture. It may be the only recorded instance of us managing concurrent straight faces.
I do have a couple of points l’d like to add to the above though.
a) Ruffalo. We also discussed Ruffalo that first day. Please note, Ruffalo should not be omitted from any further Ruffalo-appropriate lists in future
b) Just because I didn’t tweet those pictures of Sali in hospital doesn’t mean I didn’t take them. They’re right here, on my phone, ready to go, at any time
c) The reason Hughes wrote the bulk of this post is because she picked up the flack for me ten days ago when my sister had her first baby, 48 hours after her husband had emergency heart surgery. There aren’t many friends who you can count on when you need to drop everything like that, but Sali is now one of them.”