The Tweet that changed my daughter's life
Remember the little moments that made Twitter good.
There’s a lot to say and write about the apparent real-time implosion of Twitter.
There will be lots of time for study, research, for smart people breaking down What It All Means. Certainly. I’m doing a lot of thinking about why Twitter became synonymous with social-media journalism and what sports journalism will look like in a post-Twitter world.
But for now, I’ve got a personal story about how Twitter changed my daughter’s life.
In spring 2019, Beetlejuice The Musical opened on Broadway. We had learned about the show a few months earlier and bought tickets sight unseen. We watched the cast perform a version of the opening number on The Today Show the week we were going to New York to see the show.
The day before we left , we made a video of our daughter playfully singing part of that song, a precious 8-year-old singing with a ukulele before breaking into “die die die, you’re all gonna die …”
As one does.
I posted it on Twitter, tagging the show’s account and that of Alex Brightman, the star who plays Beetlejuice. This was something we did a lot when she was younger, with her permission. It was a fun way for her to connect with the show and the people involved. In the pre-COVID days when actors would sign autographs and pose for pictures at the stage door, it was a way for them and her to connect in those brief moments outside the theater. “Hey, I saw you on Twitter/Instragram!”
We were not prepared for what happened next.
Within minutes of us, both the show’s account and Alex had shared it. The video got thousands of views. Remember, the show had been out barely a month. The cast album hadn’t been released yet. The rabid fandom that in many ways has come to define the show’s two separate runs on Broadway was a few months from coalescing.
The next night we went down to the city. Our daughter dressed in her black and white striped dress, some dope purple boots, sat in the second-to-last row of the mezzanine of the Winter Garden Theater, and had the time of her life.
The magic came at the stage door, along Seventh Avenue. More than one cast member recognized her from the video. Everyone was beyond friendly.
Then Alex made his way down to us. And this is what happened: (from a piece I wrote on Medium a few years ago I have video of this entire interaction that I’ve never shared. Some things are best kept private.)
He got to her, looked her in the eye, and asked her her name.
“Ellie, nice to meet you. I am your biggest fan. Truly, I am your biggest fan.”
We have been beyond fortunate to receive just inexpressible acts of kindness from members of the cast and crew — from Alex down the line. It’s not about what those acts were, it’s all about the motivation behind them and their results.
My daughter loves theater, loves being on stage and making people laugh. But she’s also an introverted kid by nature who, when she’s nervous or anxious or in a new situation, can turtle into herself. She’s hyper sensitive to the reactions of others, and she has a tendency to hide her weirdness from a world that doesn’t always appreciate differences.
Every time we’ve been to New York, every time she’s seen Beetlejuice, every interaction she’s ever had with a cast member has increased her confidence. It’s made her more comfortable with herself, a little more confident in who she is and who she wants to be.
More than any autograph, selfie, prop, backstage tour, that is the greatest gift this show and this cast has given her.
All because of Twitter.
All because of one Tweet.
It’s simplistic to try to say that Twitter has been “good” or “bad.” It’s been both. It’s complicated. For every incredible interaction that someone has, there are cases of doxxing and harassment (especially for people of color, women, and members of the LGBTQ community). For all the ways it’s made journalism better, it’s also made it worse. For all the community it’s given me, it’s also taken me out of the moment with friends and family.
But as the platform implodes, it’s good to remember the small moments that ended up meaning so much.
Because it’s the trendy thing to do, I can tell you that I’m now on Mastodon at @email@example.com. Still learning that site, so I’m not sure what to expect there.
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