This evening, I interviewed Josie George who is from the UK region of the world. Her twitter bio states the following:
“Has feet in her shoes & brains in her head. Not entirely sure what she’s doing with either, but that’s not the point. Art student, writer, photographer, numpty.”
Luckily for the interview, she left the third person behind and was forthcoming with some wonderful pieces of her life that make her my first “the person behind the avatar” victim. You can find her on twitter @porridgebrain. I hope you enjoy finding out a bit more about her as much as I genuinely did. The interview went like this:
SG: Hello Porridgebrain. Thankyou very much for agreeing (being brave enough) to be my first twitter interviewee.
PB: You are very welcome poppet. I’m going to pretend we’re sitting on a sofa with a drunk Robbie Williams feeling my knees to put me at ease.
SG: And I am doing the same, except it is Oprah Winfrey giving me a manly squeeze of the shoulders. We’ll chat about twitter first because we are both familiar with that. Can you remember what first brought you to twitter?
PB: New motherhood was slowly killing me. I wasn’t a particularly natural mother and the whole socialising mum and baby group “let’s talk about what my obviously-a-genius-at-three-months-old-slightly-odd-looking-child did today” thing was making me want to use a breast pump to suck my rotting brain out of my ears. No one seemed to have a sense of humour or anything interesting to say. And then I found twitter. Hurray!
SG: I think it’s quite brave to admit to not feeling like a natural parent, and it must have felt like a relief to find an outlet. This may seem like a stupid question, how did you choose your username?
PB: Ha, that’s how I felt then. Like my head was full of porridge. Smelt more like baby sick actually but @vomitbrain wasn’t as cute.
SG: That could have got you some interesting followers!
(we discover that @vomitbrain actually exists but only has two followers so agree that @porridgebrain was the right choice)
SG: You describe yourself in your twitter bio as an art student/writer/photographer/numpty. The question is, which came first?
PB: Definitely numpty first. Then writer. I started blogging when Kai was little and got a taste for words. I’d play around with them like people doodle when they’re bored. It opened up something I think. A way of describing the world. The rest came after that.
SG: Your blog is very good, and I see you got nominated for a MAD Blog Award this year. That is quite an achievement! How did that arise?
PB: I’ve been very lucky with the blog. It seemed to get well-known fairly quickly and has led to some amazing opportunities and all sorts of things. At the beginning of the year the MAD Blog Awards asked people to nominate their favorite blog writers who were also parents and I was very honoured to make the finals. There were thousands of nominations so I was well chuffed.
Didn’t win, mind, but it was a great night. Being one of the top five felt very special. (I was robbed.)
SG: You totally were! But that is still a huge achievement and a perfect example of the many windows that the internet provides to folk. So, apart from the success of the blog, what other positive experiences on line have you had? Have you done the whole “meet tweeter’s” thing yet?
PB: I certainly have! Loads of them! It’s a bit of a hobby to be honest. I know people tend to roll their eyes a bit at online ‘friendships’ but I’ve genuinely met some life-changing people through the internet, people I NEVER would have had the chance to meet otherwise. I live in a small town, I’m a single mum and end up having to spend a lot of time on my own at home.
I’ve got to meet writers, designers, people doing amazing things and with amazing stories. I love getting to know people online, then the buzz of meeting them in real life, and seeing how well you get on. My life would be so less richer without all these weird and wonderful people in it.
(we do our first ever cross over of the interview at this point. PB says “and if you want a REALLY positive online experience ask me about Bangladesh” so I make a mental note of this and continue.)
SG: I agree, it gives you access to folk you would never cross paths with in life and one of my aims is to dispel all the common myths that non-tweeting folk have. That is if anybody other than ou and I read these interviews! So that’s the positives, have you had any negative online experiences? Trolling or abuse for example?
PB: Honestly? No, not really, I’ve been very lucky. A few weirdo’s sending me pictures in my DM box I could have lived without, but hey ho. No, not lucky. I really do believe most people out there are good guys. The idiots are in the minority, they just tend to shout louder.
(I recall in silence to myself how much I love caps lock shouting then remember this is not about me and swiftly move on)
SG: That’s refreshing. Tell me about Bangladesh.
PB: YES! Well, here’s a story about twitter being used for something amazing. I spoke at a conference last year about blogging and had an email a couple of weeks later from Save the Children asking if they could take me out to see some of their projects in Bangladesh for me to write and tweet about my experiences to the people back home.
I wasnt some big celeb, just an ordinary mum going to meet ordinary mums trying to bring their kids up in very, very different circumstances. And two months later I was there! I went with two other bloggers and we used twitter to share photos, blog posts, videos, stories of what we saw under the hashtag #blogladesh. And we reached TEN MILLION people! It was the first time a charity had used social media in this way, and I’m proud to say we absolutely revolutionised the way in which social media is now used to help spread charity messages.
We managed to create a huge voice, loud enough to get to meet Nick Clegg ahead of the UN Summit last year, and that led to some really positive steps in terms of increased funding for children and their mothers in developing countries. I’ll shut up now. Phew! That was a long answer. Sorry. (I also do knob jokes. I’m a multi-angle tweeter)
(I reassure PB that this is absolutely what I was looking for, plus add a bit of time for her to get her breath back by getting locked out of twitter)
SG: Well for a busy single mum with a brain like porridge that is quite an achievement. Also great that charities have grasped how far reaching social networking can be. I am more likely to listen intently to someone who I admire and trust on twitter than a millionaire politician on television. I think you are quite inspirational because I never knew about any of this. (Bad researcher!)
PB: Haha, SURPRISE! I have many strings to my bow. Or laces to my shoes. Or something.
SG: I did do a bit of research though, and I know that you like photography. Because when I first followed you, you had the best avatar on twitter. So if you could be successful at art or photography, which would please you the most?
PB: I couldn’t live without either, but I’d much rather be a successful artist I think. Both give me ways of showing people how I see the world. But art is the thing that really pushes me to think and experiment, and grow and be brave, and I like doing these things. I’m not sure I could cope with all the photographing people’s ugly babies and horrible weddings that would come with taking my photography to pro level!
I mostly take photos of things I find on the pavement. Not sure there’s any money in that. Don’t particularly aspire to be famous, though. Enough to pay the bills and live a fun life will do fine for me.
SG: Art is so much more personal, I understand that totally. Have you found you are held back in any aspects of life being a single parent?
PB: Oh GOD yes. It’s tough. Little time, little energy, little childcare. I have to squeeze everything in my little bits of time off. I’m stuck in a horrible benefits trap because nursery is so expensive and freelance work hard. And I’d love to move somewhere with more opportunities, but that would be difficult. Everyone has their restrictions though I guess. I’m big into making the most of what you’ve got. My health isn’t always great to it’s not easy. But life is good. I love my boy, he’s an ace little person to share a life with.
SG: And he must be proud of you. You are clearly a strong lady, but health is the most important thing. How does it affect you?
PB: I was very ill in my teens and early twenties. Wheelchair, pumped full of steroids ill. My nervous system doesn’t work properly. I’m much better now, but still get tired easily and bouts of really intense pain when I over-do things a bit (which is often. I don’t do sitting still very well.) Just part of life though. Gets me frustrated some days but I’m determined as fuck so it doesn’t get in the way too much. I mostly just take the piss out of myself on the bad days. Helps. Or take the piss out of everyone else. Helps MORE.
SG: That is agreat philosophy! You have achieved so much and have, by your open and honest answers been a pleasure to interview. Thank you for being my first interviewee. I hope that if and when people read this they can see what I have seen. A very interesting and fun tweeter.
PB: Thank you! I hope I didn’t waffle too much.
(Interview ends. At this point I’m quite pleased, here is someone I have conversed with many, many times on twitter, yet has revealed things I did not know. I enjoyed very much getting to know a bit more about the person behind the avatar and I could not have asked for a better first interviewee. You can read @porridgebrain’s blog at http://sleepisfortheweak.org.uk. Thankyou for reading, and if you like this then do please leave some feedback and I will consider doing similar soon. For now, GOODBYE!)