Meet and Tweet - The man who met his Twitter followers

By Steven Brocklehurst
BBC Scotland news website

image captionDeclan Dineen set out to meet his Twitter followers

Twitter is often referred to as social media. So what could be more "social" than trying to meet all your followers in person?

Declan Dineen says it was initially just a "stupid idea on a Saturday afternoon" but he decided to give it a go.

In January, the 32-year-old, who lives in Glasgow, posted on his blog: "I want to meet all of the human beings who follow me on Twitter. I've made a list, I've been at it for a week. I've met 5. It's been terrific."

But he also expressed the same note of caution which might occur to many of us.

"But what if they're a psycho?"

Declan wrote: "People generally aren't psychos. 99% of the people you've ever met have been good people.

"Some of them may have been stupid or ignorant or boring or smelled bad, so you wouldn't want to hang out with them more, but none of them were a danger.

"Even if they were, so long as I didn't die it would make the story even better."

Convinced he was not in danger, the part-time magician and film script writer set out on his quest.

Eight months later, he has managed to see almost 150 of the tweeters behind the tweets.

However, the rules have had to change a little.

Firstly it was impossible to meet all his followers because some were not real people, they were spam or a promotional tool for businesses or shows.

Then there were the people who were not active on Twitter so did not reply to his requests to meet and there were a handful who actually refused to take part.

However, Declan has met more than 100 people in person and about 40, mainly international followers, via Skype.

His Twitter followers have gone up since he started but he has decided to stop at 150, which he says is the Dunbar number - the suggested limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships.

So who were his followers?

Declan says that 30 or 40 of them were "nerdy" people, from all over the UK, who he had known online since the days of video games forums more than a decade ago but in many cases had never met.

Others were people who may have followed him after he did a magic show at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2010 and 2011.

In some cases the followers themselves had no idea why they were following him.

Self-selection process

Followers in Glasgow were easy to meet up with, as was Edinburgh.

But he soon decided he had to "step it up" so he arranged a mini tour of the UK.

"I did 17 cities in 14 days. I was meant to meet 62 people but I ended up with 50, which was a relatively nice round number at the end of it."

He said he was "disappointed" when a number of people failed to turn to the meetings but he said he never met anyone who was "properly crazy".

He says: "There is a part of me that is really disappointed by that. I was hoping for a full-on psychopath but everyone has been lovely.

"Maybe there is a self-selection process in the nature of Twitter," he says.

"You tend to follow people you are interested in or who have similar interests.

"I don't have any particularly controversial views as far as I know so I'm not going to attract anyone controversially psychotic."

Declan says: "I feel that it is a real shame that asking somebody that you only interact with on the internet to go out for a drink is inherently weird or immediately there is an assumed subtext.

"But by dressing it up and saying I am doing this project, then it's fine, and we go out and have a drink and have a fine time."

"There are definitely people I have met who I would never have met in any other circumstance. There are definitely a few people I will keep in touch with."

He says he took a few simple precautions.

"Don't go to someone's house, meet in public," he says.

"Just be smart, be around other people. Always have an exit strategy in mind. Have an alarm on your phone, maybe."

Declan, who is originally from South Wales, says: "You get a lot of Twitter meet-ups where a community will just randomly meet up.

"I think that's great. If you see those things, go along. It'll probably be weird. It'll be really awkward and you'll feel uncomfortable and then you'll meet someone and they'll be fine and maybe they'll be a friend for life."

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