Twitter is a paradigm of the people, a spectrum stretching from pure nonsense to the political. While you might think the strangest thing to come from it is the rise of Trump, I’ve found that telling people about how I met my partner to be the true spectacle.
I was having coffee with an acquaintance recently, nestled in a sleepy corner of the Food Co-Op. ‘Oh,’ she leant forward as if she were expecting a slap that never came. ‘You really met your girlfriend on Twitter?’ The incredulity might have been offensive to me years ago, but at the time I laughed.
‘Yeah, we were just floating in each other’s circles until we just –’, here I pushed my hands together, two forces fusing. When I smiled, my acquaintance reciprocated nervously.
‘I thought Twitter was all like, you know,’ she lowered her tone, ‘alt-right and stuff. Conservative.’ The unspoken questions hugged her shoulders:
How can you exist as a queer person in such a volatile space? How could you even make friends, let alone find a partner?
Why not use Tinder?
When Hatch Labs launched the app in 2012, I took no notice. I was 14, in my second year of high school and so painfully awkward you’d have to cut the silence surrounding me with a chainsaw. I was friends with self-proclaimed nerds in an all girls’ school that, though it was never said, thrived on the dichotomy of its lesbian boarding house stereotype and the strong heterosexual image it craved. I didn’t know any queer people until the following year when I had a brief and chaotic relationship with one of said nerd friends. Tinder existed in the same echelon as Snapchat and Facebook and, ironically, Twitter – something for cool straight people to use. When I finally did understand Tinder, it came with a warning from my older queer friends: it’s a hetero space. Do not approach.
Of course, there are alternatives that I had no idea about – Grindr for masculine queer folks, and Her for the sapphic-inclined – but these evolved later. OkCupid and eHarmony were, again, the straight peoples’ playgrounds, and I’d never liked their cheesy TV ads anyway. So when I’d split with my first girlfriend, I faced a fork in the road: I was neither willing to play straight, nor was I bold enough to actually come out and interact with queer strangers.
Two roads diverged in a wood and I – / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.
My old pal Bobby Frost couldn’t have said it better. I took a third option, making a Twitter account and doing what I do best: make friends without really ‘making’ them. For a year I was floating around, hesitantly dating someone who turned out to be less invested in our flimsy connection than I was. I followed some people who are now some of my closest companions, and I also found Rose – sweet, gorgeous, shy Rose who liked all the things I liked and had the cutest smile to boot.
And who happened to live on the other side of the planet.
Three years, two cross-hemispherical holidays and a grand total of forty-eight days spent in each other’s company has culminated in one pretty obvious fact: I love her more than there are words to describe it. It’s tawdry and a hundred variations on cliché but anyone who has that someone (or someones) knows it’s embarrassingly true. Though I’d like to think that even if we hadn’t met as clumsy sixteen-year-olds I would have found her eventually, the truth is that the UK is over 17,000km away. You know that song, ‘500 Miles’ by the Proclaimers? I’m not just ‘falling down at her door’; I’m arriving in the back of an ambulance.
Without Twitter, I would have never met her in the first place. Whether or not you subscribe to pre-determinist or chaos theory is irrelevant here: the fact is that a series of events led to us, and one website played a role in facilitating that. My experience of online dating may be a rare one – should be met with a healthy amount of realism – but sometimes the universe allows good things to happen to queer people.
Reflecting on this has made me realised that experiences on the internet aren’t distinct from real life. The spaces you create with the people in your physical world are just as real as those you shape online. I made Twitter the neurotic equivalent of Tinder like my parents made meeting in a TAFE classroom the 90s version of a debutante ball. Relativity isn’t confined to physics, kids; it’s living in the space between my partner and I, you and me, and us and the rest of this strange, strange world.