A few weeks ago Rob and I went out for dinner at r.tl, which must have the best URL of any restaurant in the world. A waitress brought us our menus, and asked if we’d eaten there before.
“We were here for Valentine’s Day,” I said. “Actually, I think you were our server.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t remember,” she apologized. “It was a busy night.”
She handed us our menus, and as she turned to leave us, we pulled out our iPhones. Suddenly she pivoted back.
“I do remember you! You were the couple who spent your entire Valentine’s dinner online!”
Guilty as charged. I’d love to claim special circumstances — we did relaunch the Social Signal website last February 14 — but the truth is that an awful lot of our couple time involves the gentle tap, tap, tap of fingers on touchscreens and keyboards. As the parents of young kids, “us” time happens after the kids go to bed, when we break out the laptops and visit with our friends on Twitter. Our most frequent date-night hangout is the restaurant that knows to seat us by the power outlets. And when we do go out without our Macbooks, you can count on the frequent appearance of our iPhones to snap a surreptitious picture of the menu’s typos, or to tweet a thought or question that we want to share with our pals.
Technology has always been a big part of our relationship, but there’s no question that Twitter has taken both our techno-fetishism and our relationship to new heights. I think of us a married couple, as co-parents, as business partners, as creative collaborators and as friends.
And increasingly, I also think of us as a Twitter couple. Nothing delights me more than seeing a tweet from a total stranger like “It’s hard to think of a cuter Twitter couple that @awsamuel and @robcottingham.” (Who was that tweet from? I can’t remember — nor can any of the Twitter search tools turn it up. But that’s a dilemma for another post.)
So while I normally sit out the promotional frenzy of online awards, I now have my heart set on winning the #bestcouple write-in category in this year’s Shorty Awards. The Shorty Awards honor “the best producers of short real-time content” on Twitter, and in our case, a lot of that content is an extension of our relationship as a couple.
Here are the Twitter practices that I hope deserve that title — and which could support your relationship, too:
- Keep in touch: Rob and I keep track of what the other person is doing throughout the day by following each other’s tweets and mentions.
- Keep a record: Some people look at old photos to remind them of their romantic highs. I look at our tweets and instantly remember where we were and what we were thinking about.
- Be direct: Rob and I have as many DMs as public tweets. I often check in with him privately during the day to ask for advice or feedback at a moment when I can’t talk by phone.
- Get perspective: Seeing your sweetie interact with other people — whether online or in real life — is a great chance to see them with fresh eyes and remember why you fell in love. Rob’s Twitter bon mots are a never-ending source of amusement (or groaning).
- Get encouragement: A committed relationship takes work. The affectionate cheers and teasing we get from our friends — much of it directed at how much time we spend on Twitter! — lets us know that there are people rooting for us as a team.
- Share the love: Loving moments — yours or others’ — are a great upper. We share our happy moments when we have them, and draw inspiration from others’ when times are hard.
You can see these conversations for yourself at WeTweet.ca, a site I created to present the case for nominating Rob and me as the best couple on Twitter. Yes, I care about winning #bestcouple so much that I have spent the past week mastering the intricacies of historical Twitter search, Excel-to-CSV conversion, and CSV-to-Wordpress upload. (A subsequent post will cover the tech side of this project.)
The result is a site that captures virtually every tweet between us for the past year. If that sounds like a crazy amount of effort to put into campaigning for a purely notional award, it’s craziness that’s inspired by sanity: sanity of a totally unexpected kind.
Most of my life looks not unlike what I imagined for myself growing up: Career. Kids. Friends. A home of my own.
The part I never imagined is my life is Rob. Sure, I thought I might get married, but I never had particularly high expectations for what that marriage might be like. My parents divorced when I was a baby, and from what I saw of their subsequent relationships and those of their friends, I thought of marriage as an institution in which conflict, infidelity and heartbreak were the norm.
But here I am in a marriage that is not only a joyful part of my life, but the joy that the rest of my life is built upon. And while I have a superstitious unease about sharing that joy — what if talking about it makes it evaporate? — I also remember, too well, what it’s like to doubt whether real love and commitment is even possible. Putting our real-life love on Twitter, in all its magnificent beauty and horrifying minutia, is one way to let other people see that yes, you can have what you fear you can’t have.
Winning the #bestcouple title won’t make our marriage stronger or our fights less difficult, or even make it onto the invitations for our 10th wedding anniversary celebration next summer. (Probably.) What it will do is remind me that the thing I want most painfully, desperately and improbably is possible…and possible not in spite of my geekiness, but partly because of it.
While you’re nominating us for #bestcouple on Twitter, I hope you’ll stop to think about whatever you secretly and at times hopelessly long to achieve. Your heart’s desire may not be reducible to a Shorty category or Twitter hashtag, but believe me when I tell you that no matter how impossible it seems, you can have it.
You can nominate us for the #bestcouple Shorty by clicking here. Nominations close on Friday, January 29, so please vote today!