Making new friends among the Twitterati

Gazette editor Paul Larkin reflects on a week as the guest tweeter for Visit Northumberland (he also explains what that means for those readers not yet up to speed with the ins and outs of social media).

OH the pangs of emptiness and desolution – the heart-wrenching despair when you lose a friend.

For me, it is like losing a legion of friends, because that is exactly what has happened.

As I write, it has only been 24 hours since I bade farewell to my temporary role as guest controller of the Twitter feed for Visit Northumberland – and emotions are still raw.

After a week of feeding off the musings, mutual support and shared interests of my 2,600 adopted followers, the umbilical cord has been cut and I am left floating alone in a sea of social media.

@VisitNland was my comfort blanket, my big virtual pal who told me what the weather was doing, even though I only need look out of the window; shared the most intimate detail of what was being served up for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with pictures for extra clarity; told me what to do, where to go and how to spend my day.

I found myself conversing with fellow tweeters across the world – I have no idea who they are, what they do nor what motivates them. Nor am I ever likely to meet any of them. Yet I spent a frantic week sharing my thoughts and experiences with them.

Twitter is just one limb of the social media spider that is scurrying rapidly across the globe, building webs of communication between like-minded people, exchanging messages, however random, of no more than 140 characters. Allied with the likes of Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube, it is challenging the traditional media and other ways of keeping in touch. It is not only newspapers that are suffering in the face of the current onslaught - the arts of telephone conversations and letter-writing spring to mind.

Visit Northumberland invites a new guest each week to take up the reins to put a different slant on life in the most beautiful county in England. My slant was slightly more quirky than most – I’m sure you’d expect nothing less!

So I embarked on my session with some trepidation – would I lose them hundreds of followers, could I sufficiently entertain my new friends, would I exhaust my tweets, could I keep within the rules...?

But I quickly got into the swing of things and found the band of Twitter brothers (and sisters) were pretty forgiving and gentle with me.

I learnt more than I already knew about birds, including the ospreys currently being spotted, where to head for a good walk, who was on vacation in the county and who is stuck at work elsewhere in the country wishing they were here.

Post a question and you get a dozen instant responses – not all of them entirely sensible.

The main obsession in the virtual world of Twitter seems to be the weather. I don’t know how many people told me it was snowing!

But the overwhelming feeling was one of a strong affection for our green and pleasant land, a deep pride from residents and a yearning to return from visitors.

At the conclusion of one discussion, I pledged to put it to Gazette readers that there should be a memorial to Sir George Biddell Airy, Astronomer Royal from 1835 to 1881, who established Greenwich as the location of the prime meridian in 1851. Sir George was born in Alnwick in 1801. Wouldn’t it be fitting to erect a permanent mark of his achievements. So here goes – what do you think?

As my Twitterati time was nearly up, I wanted to do something that would leave a lasting impression, so I asked followers to invent a slogan within one tweet to sum up Northumberland. The best ones are below.

It was an emotional ride but an enjoyable one. I posted 163 tweets or retweets (where you endorse and re-post someone else’s tweet) and I had a net gain of 78 followers, so I didn’t upset too many Visit Northumberland fans. It forced me to get out and about to see some fantastic places on my own doorstep, something that few of us make the time to do and it really made me appreciate what a stunning county this is.

Follow Paul on Twitter @poplarkin

HERE are some of the Twitter contributions summing up Northumberland in one Tweet (less than 140 characters).

Vic W

@vpeanuts

it’s got everything! Seaside, countryside, quaint villages, great pubs, history and Harry Potter’s castle!

Heather Baxter

@MarketingGeni

A beautiful mix of coast & country, everyone should @VisitNland

sarah mycroft

@SarahMycroft

wide open spaces, large skies, history, wildlife, culture, shopping, food & canny people.

Paul Short

@paul_short

#Northumberland has the best of all worlds -Blue Flag Beaches, Stunning Countryside to get lost in and Amazing Independent Shops

Keith

@cestriankeef

Ant Dec,Hadrians Wall,The Animals,Craster Kippers,Sting,Bamburgh Castle,Mark Knopfler,Cragside,Earl Grey,Stottie ,Grace Darling

Hazel Osmond

@hosmond

great views, big skies, even bigger hearts

Jerry Price

@MKPie

UK’s best beaches & castles. Warm & welcoming even in cold weather. Be gr8 to live there but that’d deny me pleasure of visiting

Christie Knox

@Northumberlog

The best place to survive a zombie apocalypse - fresh water, fertile, less populated than anywhere else. Sorted!

Sally Larkin

@Sally_Larkinx

coast and hills - best of both worlds.

Visit Northumberland

@VisitNland

Here’s one I prepared earlier: A land of castles & calm, with a cracking coast and compelling countryside. C it to believe it!

Eagle Wood Villa

@EagleWoodVilla

rugged, wild, beautiful, spectacular, solitude, majestic, inspiring, rejuvenating, wholesome - just words but all apt!

West Acre House

@WestAcre

Alnwick, The Green Heart Of Northumberland

Mark Pierce

@MarkCFTyne

Pretty Cumbria’s austerly beautiful sister

Doddington Dairy

@doddingtondairy

Amazing landscapes, stunning beaches, Castles, Border heritage & fantastic food!

Carole M

@22000_days

England’s best kept secret - sea, sky, secluded beaches, stunning views and special people

Mac

@AndrewMcF

miles from London....