Turns out, the unscheduled panel speaker for IFBC was a whole bunch of people speaking as one, from smartphones and laptops, via the group social media tool, Twitter. The humans sitting in the audience became an amoebic brain full of distinct voices but also unified by intelligence, b.s. detectors, and humor. Having taught for many years, I’m interested in group dynamics over the course of a school year. Each group develops its own memorable personality. Apparently, using Twitter fast-forwards this effect at, say, a food bloggers' conference.
If you do not use Twitter, imagine sitting in a high school class in which everyone is passing notes to each other, and you can see all of these notes yourself, and contribute, too. Instead of slackers waiting for summer, though, the note-passers (the “tweeters”) are grown, smart, motivated people who share your own passion for something--in this case, food. The tweets are full of insight, jotted notes of what was said aloud, and also lots of funny comments that will surely get you sent to the principal’s office if you don’t control your chortling in the first row.
Early on at the conference, the Search engine optimization session seemed to cause people to get squirrelly. I know this because my laptop screen started scrolling Twitter feed faster than I could read it. You might be thinking that it’s hard enough to listen to the speakers without having to read commentary about it simultaneously. Yep. So, how can I explain the value of this Greek chorus that was going on in the bottom half of my line of vision all weekend?
That bottom half of my line of vision was part of the weekend’s magic for me, a relatively new Twitter user. It was like simultaneously watching a dance and a rough, interpretive sketch of the movements, right below it.
This loose sketch, by the way, was also useful for those who weren’t able to be at the conference. They were grateful to feel like they were there, if only partially.
If I missed an important point that a speaker brought up, there was nearly always someone to tweet that particular comment—more than once or twice, depending on how compelling it was. If people started to get bored, overwhelmed, or tense, there was often humor to lighten the moment. It was like having a second brain the size of a room--one that was at times much smarter than me. I was blown away by the relentless brightness of comments, onscreen and also aloud at the microphone.
Further into the conference, we had a session called “Writing with the Five Senses,” with Kathleen Flinn, author of The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry. We wrote about lemons, using each of the five senses individually (This was more challenging than I would have expected, for some reason. My sense of taste has sounds and my sense of touch has flavors).
My fellow participants shared aloud some gorgeous, evocative descriptions of these lemons. Kathleen wasn’t afraid to point out places where the descriptions bordered on erotic, even beyond the navels, protrusions, juices, and nipples. Because so many people in the room were already in mind-meld mode, the sexual tension in the room was palpable. Reminder: we were writing about lemons.
I felt awkward about this feeling until my friend commented (aloud, not onscreen) to me afterwards that he noticed this room-wide feeling as well. We, as a 250 person group, had somehow become One over the course of a few hours.
When my husband first told me about Twitter awhile back, I was passionately unimpressed. Why would I care to log on to catch up on my buddy's nachos after his soccer game? However, in certain cases, such as this conference, I feel like Twitter is an aid in bonding, learning, and definitely giggling. Hey, three of my favorite things. Besides lemons and other juicy things.