Are you a people watcher? Not only do I watch people, but I create stories about them. I used to work at a drugstore (back when they were called drugstores) and I sure saw plenty of story-worthy people.
I would see the old weathered lady that would come in for the same pack of smokes every day and imagine how her life was back in the glory days. I would see the middle aged single cat lady (in my mind) who would always buy big boxes of maxipads and band-aids. I actually never really came up with a story for her. I didn’t really want to know.
I have to admit I do something similar for people on Twitter. No, I don’t imagine you as a lonely cat lady (unless that’s actually how you present yourself). But I do create these personas based on those little tiny pictures on Twitter we call avatars. I usually call them Twitpics but you know what I mean.
I’ve been surprised by how many people I’ve met in real life that I know on Twitter that I didn’t recognize. Sometimes the pictures are just grossly out of date or an extremely pleasing angle or really heavy use of Photoshop. Those are the surprises where I have to quickly get the look off my face that says “Wow, that picture totally does not look like you” and change it to “Wow, you look different than I expected!”
That’s not to say I sit in judgment of everyone I meet. But I am a very visual person, especially when it comes to conferences and you’re overwhelmed by all the new people you’re meeting. Here’s how it works for me.
I see you. I meet you. I awkwardly ask you your Twitter ID. It still doesn’t ring a bell. I look up your Twitter ID on my phone and see how I see you on Twitter. I finally connect the dots. I squeal a little and then I give you a big hug. I’ve done this enough times to know that this is how it’s going to go.
What I am always surprised at, though, is how the real YOU differs from the Twitter persona I’ve created in my head. Here are a few recent real life examples. All positive, I swear.
This is Kia’s twitpic. You can find Kia on Twitter as @notthecar. It probably has something to do with her Twitter handle but I thought Kia was a truck driver. A middle-aged Jewish truck driver. No, I’m not stereotyping in any way. It’s probably just a few things that she tweeted that made me think that way. It turns out that Kia is about as far away from a middle-aged Jewish truck driver as you can get. I found that out when we rode to Type-A Parent Conference together and we both had a good laugh about it. I finally get that she is Kia, not the car. Get it?
This is Kirsten’s twitpic. You can find Kirsten on Twitter as @nilsenlife. I can’t remember if I met Kirsten at Bloggy Boot Camp in Baltimore or not but I know that’s how we connected on Twitter. She reminds me of a college friend who was quite short and a tad on the thick side. So in my mind, she was a tiny little stout girl. We recently had coffee together when I was up in her hometown and it turns out she towers over me. She quite tall and quite athletic. Thank God I realized all this through some Facebook stalking before we met so I didn’t have the look of incredulity on my face.
And then there’s Stella, known on Twitter as @stellaaa. We tweet a lot and have shared recipes. Well, she has shared her recipes. She’s a big foodie, she’s from the Philippines, and she lives in NYC. We have a lot to talk about when it comes to food. So when I went to NYC last weekend for BlogHer Writers, it only made sense for Stella to take me out to dinner (a fantastic Japanese ramen house called Ippudo). What I wasn’t expecting was for her to be so little. Like, cute and adorable little. I imagined her much taller but she confessed she thought I was taller too.
Have you met Nicole? I’ve met her several times now. I know her on Twitter as @bywordsmusings. The only word I ever use to describe Nicole now is lovely. Because she is. We met at Type-A Parent Conference and again at BlogHer. I’m sure I knew it but simply forgot. Nicole is English, or British, or South African. Or all of the above. She has an accent and it took me by surprise. But now she never lets me forget that I say the word “niche” wrong. Apparently, it should be pronounced “neesh” and not “nitch.”
I’ve only recently fallen in love with Jenna. She’s better known as @FireMom. I connected with her through BlogHer, the network, and met her in person at BlogHer Writers. She’s one of those people that you can just sit down and start talking to with no get-to-know-you pretenses. But without the proper filter in place, when I met her, I said, “I thought you were a blonde!” Yes. It’s great way to make a first impression. Looking at her picture now, I’m not sure how I thought that. Maybe it’s that the black and white photos have more highlights in the picture and I took them to be, well, highlights. For the record, she is not blonde.
And here is Dresden. Dresden recently came out of the blogging closet. She was an anonymous blogger for years but we now know her as @DresdenPlaid. Dresden and I met through Social Media Moms and I’ve been dying to meet her in person. I had the opportunity last weekend at BlogHer Writers. And my impression? She so much younger than I thought! Maybe it’s because she seems full of wisdom. But she’s just a young babe. And an awesome one at that.
Yesterday, I got to meet a local. This is Brandy who I know on Twitter as @mannlymama. She’s totally awesome because she gave me a boatload of shoes for my Soles4Souls shoe drive. We also chatted about her current and my former corporate life. Ahh, the memories. What surprised me about Brandy is I was expecting a taller, huskier, smoky-voiced southern girl. Brandy is super cute and petite and pretty much the opposite of everything I thought.
Maybe Twitter meetings are like a blind date. You never know what to expect entirely. But I’m happy to admit that I’ve been pleasantly surprised by everyone I’ve met. And I’d gladly go on a second date.