Six months ago I arrived in a new country with a suitcase in one hand and my cat in the other. I moved here because I got a job, a sort of dream job. A step towards a dream job, definitely. At a prestigious place, earning a decent amount of money for the first time in my life. And then three months later I handed in my resignation because, to cut a long story short, they made me choose between my job and Twitter.
And I chose Twitter.
Which sounds MAD. What kind of strange woman quits a well paid, enjoyable, academic job for a social network? And what kind of idiot doesn’t regret it for a second? Well. Me. Because Twitter changed my life, Twitter made me better. It made me a better person, a better feminist and a better woman. It made me healthier. It made me happier. It made me not just like but LOVE myself and helped me to be proud of myself. Because Twitter brought me the most amazing female friends.
When I was younger – well into my twenties – I was the very coolest of the cool girls, which meant that I had almost no female friends. Women scared me, and men I understood. Men were crude and wanted to bang me and I got that, so I hung out with them and laughed at their jokes and watched them smoke weed and fended off their advances and said that I didn’t like other girls. I’ve gradually made more female friends offline, but it’s the women I’ve met on Twitter who have astounded and changed me by offering true female solidarity.
They’ve created this incredible supportive, kind, encouraging environment where we can compliment each other and give honest, genuine feedback and loudly celebrate ourselves and each other. Where we can also reach out to one another and understand that each of us is struggling sometimes and that needing support and compliments is OK, and so is giving them. A female environment without the competition, bitchiness and bullying that my younger self thought was unavoidable. A female environment that is 100% supportive.
The women I’ve met on Twitter have challenged narratives that I could never have done alone. Take selfies for example. Several of my absolute favourite women on Twitter have addressed selfies, flipping the narrative around the idea of taking a photo of yourself from narcissistic tool of a self-obsessed, superficial generation, into something powerful, feminist, and meaningful.
@uncoolestgirl, @fubarpops and @gonetodeadlock have argued fiercely and hilariously that selfies are a medium for image control and for confidence bolstering. Selfies allow women to present themselves as they wish to be seen: as sexy or demure, with perfect eyebrows or slumped in PJs. Selfies give us power. They allow us to say ‘look at me, I like me’ and not have to feel guilt or shame for that. And because of these women, for the first time in my life, I became able to take photos of myself and post them online. I received compliments. I became happier with how I look. In 2015 I had a boudoir shoot with a professional photographer because these women gave me the power and confidence to do so.
weird how selfies are narcissistic when men literally had portraits painted of them in dressing gowns to show how long they spent thinking— siân (@uncoolestgirl) April 9, 2015
Very much related to the selfie discussions is the atmosphere of unconditional support, love, and vocal encouragement among my Twitter women. There is no sense of competition or bitchiness, just pure, out loud, shouted in all caps, support. When I do something I’m proud of they’re there to scream for me. When I’m sad, they tell me all the ways I’m great and that they love me. They’ve allowed me the space to be vocally proud of my achievements, not to downplay them with phrases like “I wrote a thing” but to shout about them. They taught me to be proud of myself and to be aware of the things I have achieved and am capable of by proudly, loudly shouting about themselves and taking up space as women.
I've 100% learned more about myself from smart sexy women on Twitter than I ever have during, or after, a relationship with a man.— Alice Tew (@BuckinghamAlice) July 20, 2015
And this environment of support and love, among women I’ve never met and whose phone numbers I mostly do not have, extends into caring too. I live in a city where I know very few people, across the sea from my friends and family. I have a severe anxiety disorder, and I have battled depression since I was 8.
These things affect me every day and until a year ago I would rather have died than write those words down. But my Twitter women have been so open, so exposed and brave and inspiring in their conversations about health and mental health, in their support of any inkling that any one of us is struggling that I feel no need to be ashamed or frightened of my mental illness. They’ve all but erased my stigma and self-stigma and given me the strength and power to accept my illnesses and battle them. It’s because of these women and their honesty and kindness that I was able to walk away from my job and start a new life for myself.
I am a kinder, happier, healthier, stronger, more confident and successful woman because of Twitter.
I am entering a terrifying world with no proper job, striking out as a freelance editor and writing a book, and I know my Twitter women are there for me, holding me up with virtual hugs and jokes and little kindnesses, offering models for a better me every day. So I don’t regret a thing. I chose Twitter and I’d do it again.
Main image: iStock/Prykhodov