How Twitter changed everything.
I am not by nature a hugger. No one in my family is. There has always been warmth, and love, but no hugs. I was fine with that, but then I joined Twitter, and was swept up into a whirl of people who greet complete strangers (although we are not complete strangers, having Tweeted back and forth for weeks or perhaps days) with a sweeping, bosomy embrace, usually accompanied by the tantalizing perfume of baked goods or barbecued chicken wings. Twitter stripped away the last of my shyness, enabling me to show up to parties knowing only one other person there, enabling me to strike up conversations with everyone and anyone, talking and drinking and eating until my voice dwindled away into a hoarse whisper.
It became clear to me, some time ago, that the circle - or rather many overlapping circles - of people in Seattle who love food is incredibly connected on all levels. We are a small town, and it seems it is no accident that a high population of computer geeks overlaps rather significantly with a high population of people who love food. There are lots of local food blogs, and everyone comments on everyone else's blog. People meet at restaurants and at farmer's markets and food blogger conferences. Twitter takes this all to another level entirely. Only connect, said E.M. Forster in the epigraph to Howards End, a century ago. The extent to which people carry that idea in their hearts would blow his mind, as it has done mine.
There are a lot of people - people who aren't on Twitter - who criticize or make fun of it. Some of it is true - no one cares what I ate for lunch. On the other hand, people do care. They want to know what you had for breakfast/lunch/dinner, what you cooked/ordered at the latest diner/pizzeria/tapas bar, which market purveyor has the best bacon/cheese/tomatoes/peaches/fresh raw milk/still has eggs. They are eager to tell you - you need only to ask - where to have a meal in a strange city or what to do with a pig's head. Someone once referred to Twitter as "one giant circle jerk." There is a certain amount of public masturbation going on, to be sure, but then I consider how much better - or if not better, then certainly different - my life is now.
The trick, as with all things, is to take the absolute best thing about something, and run with it. The absolute best thing about Twitter is that someone will mention an idea, then someone will answer to it, and the next thing you know a haze of booze is hanging over your living room and sixteen people are sitting around eating several different desserts that are all basically booze in solid form. Or a week later what was supposed to be just you and one of your new friends making bacon rice krispie treats turns into eight people at your dining table consuming bacon-and-chanterelle soup, bacon-dressed salad, bacon-and-corn salad, bacon cupcakes, and yes, bacon rice krispie treats, and later falling asleep on the sofa surrounded by stuffed animals while watching My Neighbor Totoro. You head out for an impromptu pizza dinner at the new place everyone is raving about and wind up watching Top Chef at the home of a (no longer) complete stranger with one of the stars of the aforementioned Top Chef sitting at your knee. Yes, Seattle is a small town, and never has it been more clear to me than in the past few months.
The absolute best thing about Twitter is that you will ask a question and five people will answer in about sixty seconds, that you will discover a wonderful group of people, the kind of people who greet and take their farewells with a round of hugs, hugs all around.