I got @SpartanJessica on the phone, and we started talking as humans don’t do these days: voice to voice.
I “knew” of the 41-year-old through that candy shop/cess pool that is Twitter. I’d written a column about loneliness that has resonated with readers. Jessica Freedman, whose Twitter handle is @SpartanJessica, piped up in a tweet of my column that anyone reading this was welcome to come to her next “Tweet Meet,” which was held Tuesday at Casual Pint in Countryside Village.
Jessica organizes such in-person meetups about once a month at various Omaha watering holes. Her goal is to help locals who “know” each other online to meet offline, in the flesh, and build an actual human connection while supporting a local business. She’s been doing it almost four years.
“Social media can make you connected and very isolated,” said Jessica, who has sent some 22,500 tweets in six years.
The meetups can be intimidating to some who like the separation of social media or, as @AsianJoeEvans says, are digital extroverts but social introverts. It’s like a group blind date.
But Jessica is warm, friendly and comes with name tags (using Twitter handles) and sometimes home-baked treats. People are on their own for drinks. The meetups are typically scheduled on weeknights in hopes of catching people on their way home from work.
They last only two hours. Jessica, who is a vice president at Ticket Express, takes June and July off.
The most recent Tweet Meet drew about 30 people, including a lot of newcomers.
This event grew organically. Someone in Jessica’s Twitter circle tweeted that he’d been at California Taco in midtown. Others chimed in: Wish I’d have known! Would have met you there! So, they organized a lunch there on a Saturday in March 2016. A tradition was born.
Tweeters have become friends. @Jim_Phillips1, a meteorologist, gives @SpartanJessica hour-by-hour forecasts on her trips back to Michigan. @AtomicCyclist once fixed @SpartanJessica’s car.
Joe Evans, AKA @AsianJoeEvans, is a 37-year-old who works in marketing and communications for Nebraska Medicine. He was part of that first meetup and has stuck around because he finds the meetups easy, fun and important. Joe is from Valley, worked in Waverly and is trying to grow roots here.
“I’ve met some of my best friends through Twitter and the TweetMeets,” he told me ... via Twitter.
Jim Phillips, 52, who has lived in Omaha for 12 years, said the meetups offer a chance to chat with a wide array of people you might not otherwise have had the chance to know. On Tuesday, for example, he talked with a corporate attorney.
“I loved having a few beers with him and hearing his take on various legal issues,” Jim said. “Outside of Twitter, there is no way I would have met him.”
Anyone on Twitter knows the platform has dangers: trolls, lies, tar pits of distraction. But like the delightful Baby Yoda memes spreading joy, there are sincere seekers trying to find meaning. Jessica hopes to be a guide.
“I don’t want anybody to be lonely,” she said.