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GUEST COMMENTARY: Fast friendship grows over Twitter, Skype and 'Fallout 3'

Tuesday, September 20, 2011 | 12:52 p.m. CDT; updated 3:46 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 22, 2011

I lived in my apartment for a little more than a year before I met my neighbor. I didn’t knock on his door for a cup of sugar, either.

I met him via Twitter.

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I opened up my Twitter feed one day and noticed I had a new follower who was real, i.e. not a fake bot girl in a bikini or a business I’d never heard of.

I skimmed his last few tweets to get a sense of who he was and his attitude. Things looked promising, as his tweets were mostly video-game-related.

I stumbled upon one: "My next door neighbor has a 'Space Invaders' car air freshener. That's pretty awesome."

"I have a 'Space Invaders' air freshener," I thought to myself, and tweeted the same to him.

We got to the bottom of the mystery that afternoon and discovered only a wall had separated us for past 10 or so months. Shortly after, we played through an entire campaign of "Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Conviction" cooperatively via Xbox Live.

Our acquaintanceship bloomed, and we started lending each other video games and keeping an eye on each other’s apartments while the other was out of town. 

About a year ago, I was playing through a game called "Fallout 3" and tweeting (as I usually do) ravenously as I progressed. A young man named Parker started following my Twitter feed — @Parker_Scott — and replied to my "Fallout"-related tweets. He happened to be playing through it at the same time.

I knew nothing about this man — not even what he looked like, due to his display picture being a cartoon drawing. I held no reservations as we tweeted back and forth and ever so slowly got to know each other.

Twitter is an amazing tool when used correctly. On my feed, which features input from the more than 1,000 people I follow, I see news about video games, movies, Columbia, MU, music and many other topics.

A lot of people use Twitter as an opinion-spouting machine. It’s interesting getting to know someone based on only his or her honest opinions about hot topics. It can also be annoying.

I’ve tweeted about restaurants while sitting in them, classes in the middle of lectures, video games during load screens and work while in the breakroom, among many other things.

I treat it like my personal diary where I can store my opinions and thoughts. Despite having more than 500 people subscribe to my feed, I post as if no one is looking. This leads to rawness and, quite possibly, room for me to offend people. It’s the nature of the beast.

I keep up with a lot of people on Twitter, but it’s rare that I form a solid friendship with someone.

I’ve encountered local gamers in Columbia on Twitter and eventually met them in person, eaten dinner with them and even recorded podcasts with one. I’ve become Facebook friends with some and instant messaged with others.

I kept my eye on apartment openings in Columbia for a student who transferred to MU before meeting him in person for lunch and an off-the-record tour of campus.

None of my friendships from Twitter have come as far as the one with Parker, the man who concurrently played "Fallout 3" with me. As we instant-messaged more, we both discovered that we were writers looking to break in to the video-game journalism market.

We’re both serious about writing and editing, and we post blogs on various topics to read before critiquing each other’s.

I took a nosedive into another form of communication with Parker when we decided to video-chat over Skype, a popular calling and video chatting service, in May.

I had never video-chatted with anyone before, much less anyone I only knew through opinion rambles on Twitter or instant messages on Facebook. We took the plunge, and it was a success.

I’ve only known Parker for about a year and we’ve only video-chatted about 10 times, most of them lasting a few hours apiece, but I wouldn’t hesitate to call him one of my best friends.

We’ve discussed more meaningful topics in our short friendship than I have with people I’ve known face-to-face for years.

We most often discuss video games and journalism, but nothing is taboo. He teaches me about what it’s like to be a college student in Utah and be part of the Mormon religion and I enlighten him on what a gay college graduate’s life is like.

I have no qualms with meeting someone and launching a meaningful friendship via the Internet in this generation. And though I’ve never tried it, I also give no negative connotations to online dating.

I think a fair amount of people would hesitate to refer to someone they’ve never met in person as a "friend," but I regularly call Parker "my friend from Utah" if I ever mention him among my buddies in Columbia.

Even though he’s about 1,200 miles away and a few years younger than I am, I hope that we’ll somehow collaborate on some sort of video-game related writing project in the future.

Is it possible to progress from strangers, Twitter followers, Facebook friends, Skype sessions to project partners? One can only hope.

Corey Motley is a recent graduate of MU’s School of Journalism. He’s currently working a part-time job, tweeting and blogging about video games. 


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