I am a very lucky woman. But here’s how I’m going to make it sound like more than luck that caused me to turn out that way.
I joined Twitter in February 2008. I can’t remember what initially led me there, but it was instant fun to me, although a somewhat lonely experience — there weren’t that many people that I knew on Twitter at the time. Posting status updates felt a little like one hand clapping, since there weren’t really many people out there actually listening. There was something so appealing about Twitter, however, that I stuck around, and over time began getting adopted into a circle of local folks also there — only a handful of whom I actually knew in person, but when a fellow Charlottesvillager located me, I’d follow them back, and over time an interesting relationship developed. There were all these people I didn’t know whose lives I became at least tangentially aware of, due to watching their Twitter status updates fly by me every day. Sometimes we’d engage in conversation, and sometimes I’d just read and move on silently, but I was always appreciative of the things that Twitter brought into my world — interesting news links, fun local recommendations, and just an awareness of how other people were passing their lives in my town.
And then there was that fateful day. Jamie Schwartz, @brownautogal on Twitter, wondered: “Any suggestions as to who makes the best pies in Charlottesville?” Marijean Jaggers, @Marijean, soon led with: “I am the pie master,” and Brian J. Geiger, @thefoodgeek, countered with: “I have been told that my Apple Pie was Absolutely The Best…” Marijean and Brian’s Twitter followers jumped in to volunteer (selflessly, of course) to eat pies baked by the two to truly decide the question. I like pie, so I hurried to throw my hat into the ring to judge: I think my actual comment was “mmmm, pie” (trying not to be too obvious about it, in case I wasn’t chosen, or in case they weren’t serious about baking pies for strangers on Twitter, which, shockingly, they were). And at the speed of lightning, things started to happen: a name for the event was chosen. From among the Twitter volunteers, four judges were picked, including me. A date was selected. Local businesses competed to host the adventure. Others agreed to donate prizes to the competitors. Local media, including @DailyProgress, @nbc29, and @cvillain signed on to cover the event in various ways. A website was put together by @stevewhitaker, and a graphic designed by @GraphicsGeek. A way-catchy theme song was even recorded by @amandafrench, former Cville resident who still stays in touch via, you guessed it, Twitter. All of this was coordinated by people who had for the most part never met in person, and the word was spread strictly by social media: Twitter updates, a Facebook event, and blogging, sweet blogging.
The fact that the Cville Pie Down was at its origin so virtual and viral made me nervous at first, I’ll admit. I had Social Media Anxiety, fearing that for all the positive buzz about the Pie Down online, no one would actually show up to witness it in person. Marijean and Brian had nicely volunteered to bake a pie for one lucky individual in the audience whose raffle ticket was chosen, but otherwise, there wasn’t much being promised to people in attendance, other than a chance to get a sliver of pie not scarfed down by the judges and the opportunity to participate in something I thought was cool. But would others? I had visions of that one hand clapping again.
Apparently I should have known better. People were not shy about showing up. Marijean’s description of the event as “Other, Carnival” on the Facebook event page seemed very à propos to me while judging: sitting in the crowded downtown Mudhouse at a table with Mayor David Norris, TV camera lights making me sweat even more than I already was, people live Tweeting our every word, an appearance by Congressman Tom Perriello… How did I end up here?
And that’s part of the beauty of social networking. Among other things, it’s a democratizing force, bringing people together and allowing many to participate in discussions, events, and organizations in ways that they never would have been able to before. And social media is such a part of our lives now, in so many different ways. Me, I use it professionally (to connect with important people in my field, to stay current with news and technology that helps me in my job) and personally (to keep up with family, friends, and an ever-increasing circle of cool local folks and news). Today, social media brought me all that, plus some kick-ass pie. You really couldn’t ask for anything more.