I played tennis tonight for the first time in months. In keeping with my resolution to lose weight and do more exercise I thought I should accept the offer from a friend for a game with some friends of hers. It was a great night, not only as I got to do some exercise and get those endorphins flowing, but more so as I met some lovely people. As an adult it is not easy to make friends - we get set in our ways and tend to stick with those we've already made connections with - so meeting new people and finding an immediate connection with them is quite an achievement. It was a strange evening as I knew I would be meeting new people and that I would only know the one person there but I was not at all worried about it (which is unusual as I do tend to be anxious sometimes when in similar situations). But our shared interest and enjoyment of tennis was a great springboard for conversation, as was our shared experiences living in the same town. I found I was not at all worried and was comfortable and relaxed. It was a very enjoyable evening and I do hope I can repeat the experience again.
In fact, I have made a number of new friends in the last year or so, friends I know I will keep in the longterm. Up to now I had my school friends, my work friends and my uni friends - they have been the mainstays of my social circle for over 15 years and I am very comfortable and happy in their company. In the last year or so I have had to step up and befriend other parents of kids in classes and activities with my own kids. Surprisingly, I have found a lot of common ground and true friendship with some of them which I am beginning to really cherish and enjoy. It is widening my social circle and encouraging me to think in new ways, something that I didn't realise I needed. While it has been challenging to establish connections with others again and go through all the uncertainties of early friendship, it has proved that it is worthwhile to invest in others even if you are comfortable with the friendships you already have.
Another platform I have utilised to make new friends is Twitter. Now, I admit, I thought Twitter was a real waste of space when I first encountered it. I thought it was a program for the self-indulgent and could not see any purpose to seemingly meaningless 140 character limit status updates. It was not until our antenna came down just before the Australian federal election last year that I found what an amazing news service it provided for someone without TV reception. Since then I have relied on Twitter to give me the most up-to-minute news updates and have found lots of people to follow with similar interests and points of view (and also those with opposing views to spice things up a bit!). I have only recently started to fully interact with Twitter - you might laugh, but I was too self-conscious to really respond to others directly and to put my point of view out there. But I am learning the etiquette of Twitter as I go and find following the various conversations between different "tweeps" hugely absorbing.
Although I have no face-to-face friends on Twitter, I feel part of a community of people bonded by their love of the program, their need to interact in real-time with others and a shared passion for the power of social media. This feeling of cameraderie is becoming more evident all the time, particularly when it perceived that a member of the community is being unfairly targeted or attacked. Recent examples of this include the outing of an anonymous blogger by a mainstream journalist and an ongoing defamation case between an editor of a major Australian newspaper and a journalism academic who used Twitter to live-tweet details of a speech. The support shown to the "tweeps" in these examples by their Twitter friends illustrate the real sense of community that has been established in what I once thought a self-indulgent and purposeless phenomenon. I am proud to be a member of this community and hope to further interact and befriend other like-minded people in the coming year. Who knows, in time I could also make some real, long-term friendships as my understanding and interaction with Twitter improves. I am finally ready and willing to enlarge my social circle and accept new ideas and viewpoints - it's got to make me a richer and more informed individual, doesn't it?