Where did this all begin? And where will it end? I can't speak for anyone else but my online experience, in particular my online 'citizenship', evolved like this...
About ten years ago, my online experience was limited. My life revolved mainly around working the weeks, clubbing the weekends, and minor distractions to fill the gaps. My main interests were - in increasing levels of cool and decreasing levels of geekiness - horror roleplaying games, comic books, tarot cards and music. Girls too, of course, but given three of those four core interests I was lacking in certain social capabilities that ensured they played a major role in my real life. I wrote and drew cartoons to entertain and express myself to others, and stylish looking diaries to entertain and express myself to myself. It was before the world had embraced Blogging, and it was how I really got a handle on who I was, and found 'my voice'.
Online I only really devoted any time to a mailing list where we were all writing fictional accounts of hunting vampires and other things that stalked the night. I was developing my love of writing, but not persuing it with any real zeal, because I was young, in my 20s, had started earning money and was enjoying pissing it back up against a wall by going out clubbing, and buying obscure music and books from America. I suppose I did most of my reading around this time, tapping into some rich seams of counterculture writing.
Ah, those were the days. Young, foolish, happy. But so wrapped up in myself because I was very much the outsider.
Okay, jump forward to about seven or six year ago. I'd been exposed to handful of really good, inspiring websites. I'd had a stab at creating my own version of TV Go Home, putting together a Time Out parody called Torn Out ('the heart and soul of a jaded London'). It probably still exists out there, in bits and pieces. In doing a bit of research, trying to find out about creating an online cult around a larger than life fictional character ('Dr Celery Jones'), I stumbled across a book by a guy who asked people to join him, and inadvertently started a cult of his own. I then inadvertently joined his 'cult', joined an online community, and began Blogging properly. And found I could write and write and write.
That community still exists - www.joinme.co.uk
I started to go out and socialise with a massive group of strangers, and within about a year had met my girlfriend, discovered I was going to be a father, and moved away from London to start a family.
Okay, so five or four years I'd developed the Virgoan need to catalogue various things on various Wikis I'd created, but I didn't really have an online 'presence' of my own until I got a MySpace account. I'd drifted away from the online community I'd been with in London, and MySpace allowed me to get back in touch, to make a profile that immediately allowed me to show my true individual colours, and sell that packaged personality to a greater audience. As someone involved in design (and a s a wannabe writer) it offered great potential. It was here I made an online friend called ThisBlackHole, who wrote incredibly dark but articulate fiction, and HIAB-X ('Head in a Box'), someone with whom I shared a lot of interest. It was also where I first became fully aware of Warren Ellis's online empire, being familiar with him previously through my largely UK-centric comic collection.
At about this time I began to indulge my writing a little more. Submitted something for a small press publication, got it published, had an accident, went into recovery mode for a while and let writing sit on the back-burner a bit. By now, of course, I was also a full-time dad. I had less time to pursue writing, so MySpace was largely a place to indulge in finding new music and other writings. I also indulged in a little online gamery, but it's near impossible to do with a young family.
About two years ago I stumbled across Facebook, found it less 'packaged' and more user-friendly than MySpace. Last.fm had neatly taken over most of my online music needs (I'm there as both 'Psibreaker' and 'LokiSK') And as I said to HIAB-X at the time, MySpace is like trying to advertise yourself to a greater audience and for making and maintaining web contacts. Facebook is for maintaing contact with friends you already have.
Which I still do, via the medium of pictures. Most importantly it gave someone with no Flickr account a way of showing off photos, and of keeping in better contact with rarely seen friends and family. And get roped into 101 applications to eat away my free-time. Until...
With Twitter I don't bother updating my Facebook account. Facebook, with it's 101 pointless but pretty distractions stopped me Blogging or writing for ages. Possibly also because we're back in London, and I can see many of my Facebook Friends in the flesh again I've not had to indulge so much. But, importantly, Twitter allows me to Blog again, because I don't get distracted by all the questionaires, gifts, games and rubbish associated with Facebook. Micro-Blogging, as they say. But it's more than that. It's current. Normal Blogs feel like I've sat down, composed an exciting monologue, and pinned it on a notice board for all to see and consider. I find it a little self-indulent, but then I'll happily do it anyway. For fuck sake, I want to be a proper writer. It's what you have to do!
But Micro-Blogging, it's spontaneous. It's quick witted observations. It's often mundane observations, true (I'm sure my 'Ham and mustard. Scrummy.' comment yesterday won't win any awards), but at other times it's spot on. It's hard to be ingenuine and keep up with everyone else.
I have this image of Twitter being a little like the human consiousness, a stream of thought somewhere between pure polished personality and subconsious. It's vital, it's fresh, it's almost fucking alive. Most of all, I feel connected to like-minded people in a way I've not been able to before. Blipping music too, so that people appreciate exactly what mood someone's in. It's 140 characters at a time, sure, but I haven't seen much misunderstanding between Tweeters (then again, I don't Follow the sort of person likely to flame or have hissy fits). It's great for haiku, quick one-liners, blathering banter, rants about pressing issues, news. The death of David Karradine spread like wild-fire - I'd never have found out til much later had not the news slowly trickled in, then flooded! I swear, I'm the source of news in my office simply by having my ear to the ground and my eye to the Twitter.
I also know I don't need to waste my life watching the Apprentice or Big Brother, because it will be relayed to me almost immediately. Which is good, because we have no TV.
If you're not already on Twitter, I encourage you to join, find a whole bunch of people to Follow, and just plug into the hive mind. We'll be waiting for you.