How to Use Twitter as a Support System - dummies

How to Use Twitter as a Support System

By Laura Fitton, Anum Hussain, Brittany Leaning

At its best, Twitter can do an incredible job as a support system for your support system. That is, by keeping you connected in real time with the people in your support system, you are better able to rely on them when you have a request for help or want to give back in appreciation.

Many users instinctively turn to their Twitter network when they need to commiserate over a loss by their favorite sports team, when they get a promotion or a new job, when they lose a loved one, or when anything else happens that they want to share with a supportive network of people.

Twitterers have used the service to help displaced families, victims of natural disasters, abuse victims, job-seekers, animals in need, and even researchers who need people to take part in focus groups. Twitter has also proved useful for couch-surfers, who have come to know interesting and accommodating people in different fields of expertise.

Because Twitter helps people get to know one another on a more personal level, new friends can meet online and eventually come to interact offline.

Be careful. As you would with any stranger, exercise caution when meeting people for the first time. Meet them in a public and visible place, like a cafe or restaurant, preferably during an organized public event with lots of other people around. Bring another friend with you, if possible, and stay in a public and highly visible location.

Pay attention to your instincts. Finally, think carefully about how you model and explain this kind of meeting-up in front of your kids. You don’t want to accidentally give them the impression that it’s no big deal to meet “online friends” in real life. Talk about how you decide whom to meet, and share an age-appropriate version of the precautions you take when you do so.

For many, Twitter has replaced search-based electronic resources and become their go-to place for help and support. Depending on the nature and the strength of your network, asking your friends on Twitter (both the ones you now have and the ones you’re making) for guidance or opinions can yield more detailed, varied advice and help than you might receive if you turned to only your offline network.

Twitter isn’t meant to replace your offline network of lifelong friends and family of course. Quite the opposite. It’s a technology designed to enrich that network. While connecting with your friends on Twitter, you may meet new friends and start to get a better feel for the people (both new and old) whom you can trust.

There are tons of great Twitter love stories, but here are two marriages that started as long distance Twitter friends. From a few random Tweets in February 2008, Canadian writer Meg (Fowler) Tripp and social media professional Gradon Tripp met in person for the first time in October 2008, got engaged in February 2011, and married in October 2011.

Dating coaches Laurie Davis and Thomas Edwards started to interact online for professional reasons in 2009, but it turned personal pretty fast. Their Twitter-themed May 2014 wedding (hashtag #HappilyEverEdwards) was featured in both The New York Times and on People.com.

When you expand the circle to include online friends, countless additional relationships and marriages can be found, so keep a very open mind about the “strangers” you are getting to know as you dabble in this new-to-you medium.

Although Twitter is useful for supporting global causes and events, the most poignant uses of Twitter can just as easily be found in the simple ways in which users help each other, one at a time, all day, every day.

Twitterers reach out to one another through the trials and annoyances of everyday life to crises of every size and measure. Twitterers have been support networks when loved ones are in the hospital, when couples divorce, when relationships break up, and more. When you use Twitter, your expressions of frustration and loss are often met by an immediate response. In its best moments, Twitter empowers humanity to act humanely.