I’ve lived in Walthamstow for 12 years but this year I discovered something new about the glorious Stow, it has a thriving twitter community. I stumbled across it by accident when I was bored one evening and typed Walthamstow in to the search field, I found and followed a number of locals and soon realised there were things going on in and around E17 that I had been missing out on.
As I followed more people and started talking with them it struck me that twitter had become a virtual pub, the twitter arms, a place for locals to get together and share information or just have a good old gossip. Twitter had a purpose, I no longer had to stare at Stephen Frys tweets wondering what all the fuss was about or read about Tim Lovejoy going to the football (again). Before I knew what was happening I was arranging to have my photograph taken for the E17 Art trail and inviting someone around to collect a strimmer we no longer needed.
The virtual pub often spills into the real world, I’ve met fellow Stow folk at work, tracked them down in local pubs, visited them at home and on one occasion was identified by my tattoo at Wood Street Market. This is a story that happens all the time in the twitter arms, its walls are full of ‘Nice to finally meet you today’ messages posted by people who you would think had known each other for years but had only just met.
I suppose we are doing things backwards, traditionally you would meet someone down the pub and then stay in contact. We are making contact first then meeting down the pub later and I for one love it, the question is does it really count as a community if many of us have never met?
The concept of community can sometimes inspire images of jam, Jerusalem and village halls. My mother in particular has a very clear view of what community means, to her it’s about people being nosey and only involves the select few. Mum lives in a small village and to some extent she is correct, if you don’t have three generations of family buried in the Church yard you are not even considered local. Our community is different, In the twitter arms all are welcome.
Technology isn’t always great at bringing people together, with the TV and Internet to entertain us and the ability to do our food shop online, it would be easy to stay behind the front door and not interact with anyone. The twitter arms is often the starting point, the chat with a mate propped up against the virtual bar that gets us of our sofas and out on to the streets.
Perhaps online communities are the new village hall, an open to anyone meeting point, an electronic thread that can bring people together. We are incredibly lucky in our corner of London to have a community that exists both beyond the front door and behind the laptop screen and I value both.
I’m getting off the sofa right now to go and do something that a twitter arms regular recommended yesterday, if you live in #Walthamstow I might see you there. #Awesomestow.