Today is the first anniversary of the date I joined Twitter – my Twanniversary! So I’m celebrating with a blog post about my year on Twitter.
I tweet as @Sectioned_ (please remember the underscore) and, since joining Twitter on 7th January last year, I’ve been on a journey I’d never have anticipated.I had no expectations of Twitter when I joined. I just wanted to see if it would be helpful to me in my journey towards better mental health.
So what has this past year on Twitter been like for me? And what have I learned? Here are some thoughts:
- When I first joined Twitter, there were lots of fantastic Twitter people (“tweeps”) willing to help and guide me. That continues to be the case.
- There’s a lot of humour on Twitter. You can always find something to make you smile or even laugh.
- Twitter is a great way to engage directly with people you might otherwise never meet. I’ve met some fantastic tweeps.
- Twitter is also a great way to learn information you might otherwise never stumble across.
- Hashtags – searchable key words preceded by the hash or number symbol # – are useful (such as #mentalhealth) and can also be fun (such as last year’s #EssexLion).
- Twitter chats are a fast-moving and exciting way to get to know new tweeps and get involved in a discussion, though you can “lurk” (watch but not contribute) as well as participating.
- When I express and stand behind an opinion on a controversial topic – such as forced medication, physical restraint or including mental health history information in criminal records checks – I’m going to be on the receiving end of some strong comments.
- Sometimes it’s necessary to block tweeps.
- I need to keep good boundaries on Twitter so as not to be steamrollered by forceful tweeps and by the volume of information. I’m still vulnerable.
- Sometimes I need to take a break from Twitter. I took a whole month off in May after after receiving an overwhelming amount of tweets including some very negative ones (I’d raised a controversial topic), and often take off a week here and there.
- 140 characters is an excellent means of self-expression and is also a really useful introduction to writing, especially if your concentration or focus isn’t currently sufficient to enable you to write longer posts.
Some fantastic opportunities have come to me through Twitter that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. Highlights include:
- Being invited to be a guest blogger for paramedic Ella Shaw’s (@DiagnosisLOB) popular blog which, in June 2012, became Trying My Patients
- Being commissioned to write an article for national aspirational lifestyle magazine for people with mental health problems One in Four (see the current edition, Winter 2012/2013) (@MarkOneinFour)
- Being invited to be a judge in the World of Mentalists blog 2012 TWIM Awards (@TWOM_blog) alongside an amazing panel of judges
- Being asked by a national charity to be part of their campaign to improve inpatient care
- Becoming a blogger for the first time
- Discovering on Twitter that my previously spotless criminal record now contained an “arrest” by police when they took me from my home to the psychiatric hospital as well as a reference to my stay in hospital (here‘s a relevant blog post).
- Discovering the level of ignorance and prejudice there is – both in the media and from the general public – around mental health and the number of myths that surround it (hence my “Top 10 Myths about Mental Health” post).
Here’s my Twitter year in numbers:
- 365: days since I joined Twitter
- 10 million: number of active Twitter accounts in the UK
- 11,121: number of tweets sent
- 2,685: number of followers on Twitter
- 70: number of stories published by me on Storify
- 32: number of posts on this blog
- 16: number of countries where my blog has been read
- 6: number of people who’ve commented on my blog
So what do Twitter and blogging have in store for me in the year ahead? I don’t know. If the blog appears to be read and what I tweet appears to be engaging people in a positive way, that will be a good thing. But I have no plans for either.
I have no product to sell, no agenda to push. My only agenda is an internal one: if Twitter proves useful and positive to me in my journey towards better mental health then I will continue to use it. Likewise the blog. Otherwise I will not.
On reflection, it might help me to improve my use of Twitter, which has developed in a haphazard way so far. I could follow more people, make more connections and learn new stuff. Lists would definitely be something I’d need to look into if I were to follow more tweeps. Perhaps that’s something I could look into this year. Or perhaps I will continue to ramble along in a random way.
Thank you for reading.