As a person who has spent, not only her entire childhood but a large part of her adulthood in schools, I can tell you that nothing has changed. All the same dynamics that defined school in the 1970s or, whenever you happened to attend, still reign supreme. Fashions and tastes in music may move on but the cliques and groups that dictated your school life are still there.
Funnily enough, this all came back to me the other day as I was going through my retweeting routine, staring at all the lovely little faces of people who have become so familiar to me, even though I have never met them. As I trawled through the multitude of tweets it struck me that Twitter is a bit like being in school. Lined up in front of me, as I clicked away, was the full representation of every group you ever co-existed alongside during your school days. It made me smile as I remembered negotiating my own place on the social grid, all the while wondering where each of these little faces would fit.
I mentally ticked off the cool ones. The ones who seem to be brimming with confidence, who always know what to say and always with the certainty that they will be listened to. It’s amazing how, even in this virtual world, you can almost see fellow tweeps lining up to flirt and chat with these charismatic, online charmers. Sound familiar? It doesn’t matter when and where you went to school, I’m willing to bet we’ve all gazed adoringly at these people thinking, if only ...
Then there are the wild ones. The tweeps who tweet about naughty things which frankly make me blush just retweeting them. Just like in school, I get the feeling that this group would be a lot of fun but I’m far too squeamish to do anything other than observe their wild antics from a safe distance. I clearly remember my mother warning me that those flighty girls at school would come to no good and I can only imagine what she would say if she saw the uninhibited tweets, not to mention the saucy profile pictures of some of my more racy friends.
Scrolling down I can spot the rebels, the ones who are outspoken and blunt. As I retweet some of their missives, I remember being fourteen and consumed with the fear of being caught up in any furore that was likely to be sparked by my more ballsy friends. I get that same queasy worry now searching for the least confrontational tweets. How I admire these people in their refusal to give a hoot what anybody else thinks and their readiness to take on anybody in a war of words. I am forced to conclude I was a coward then and I’m a coward now.
Next we have the quirky oddballs, who we all have a soft spot for even if we don’t always know what they are actually tweeting about. I retweet people in rhyme or who tweet upside down. Then there are the wacky jokes and images that I very rarely get but wish I did.
Remember the political activists, who were always trying to rally their classmates behind some worthy cause or other? Well they are here too. Retweeting their messages always makes me feel like a better person even if deep down I know I’m far too lazy and shallow to possess any real moral fibre myself. I remember that feeling well from my school days, when sponsoring someone or signing a petition could give me a sanctimonious glow for days.
There’s the class clown whose tweets are always pithy and amusing. The ones you look for because you know they will put a smile on your face. I like the ones which are a response to current affairs and the speed and ready wit of these online jokers always impresses me. Just like it used to in the playground when every event, no matter how tragic, would unleash a barrage of politically incorrect and almost always inappropriate jokes.
So where do I fit in? I think maybe I was always a bit of a chameleon dipping in and out of several groups but never really belonging in any, then again maybe deep down everybody felt like that. I was a nice, well behaved girl, my mother saw to that, but at the same time I liked to do my own thing. Over the years I’ve always felt a stab of discomfort whenever I have imposed group work on the wilful child, who can’t bear to adapt their own ideas to those of the group, because I fear that was me. I always imagine that I must have been a teacher’s dream because my homework was always done and I had more stationary than WH Smiths but, in reality, I was probably an irritating little so and so who scuppered their new and exciting (this was the 70s don’t forget) cooperative learning initiatives at every turn.
So go on then – which one are you?