London - Would you want to go out for a drink with every one of your Twitter followers? Probably not. But that's what one man from Glasgow has just done.
Declan Dineen, 32, set himself the challenge in January when a “boring Saturday afternoon idea” became a quest to track down and meet his hundreds of digital acquaintances who remained strangers in the “real world”.
The screenwriter and part-time magician, who has a long history of making friends online, told The Independent: “I wish I had a better answer to why I did it, other than that I thought it would be fun. I wasn't even in the pub. It wasn't a bet, I was perfectly sober and totally cogent.”
Starting locally, within a week he had met five of his followers, and the project “steamrollered” from there. Soon he met 40 or so from the Glasgow and Edinburgh areas, blogging about the meetings on his website.
“When I started out I had about 170 followers, and once I exported them into a spreadsheet - I'm weird like that - and removed all the spam bots, I realised there were about 150 real people to meet,” he explained.
He decided to cap his challenge at that number. His spreadsheet showed followers in nearly 20 towns and cities and a two-week-long journey staying on friends' floors and booking cheap train tickets ensued.
“There was no formal process for it all. I just messaged people and met up for coffee or a beer and it's been wonderful. There hasn't been any awkwardness at all with meeting practical strangers,” he said. He discovered that 30 or 40 of his followers were “nerdy” people whom he had known online since he used to spend time on videogames forums.
Others followed him after he did a magic show at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2010 and 2011. But in some cases, the followers themselves had no idea why they were following him.
He added that his experience had shown how much information people are willing to share online. “It was odd that I knew a great deal about many of these people's lives before I even met them. I'd heard that funny holiday story already,” he said.
Dineen's story has parallels with comedian Dave Gorman's pre-Twitter quest in 2000 to find 54 other people called Dave Gorman. His adventure went on to spawn a comedy roadshow and helped to launch his career. - The Independent