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Past Tense of Tweet

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Social media has always fascinated me. Chat rooms, IM, ICQ, Myspace, Napster, forums, Xbox Live, PSN, Match, Craigslist, Facebook, Skype, Vent, LinkedIn, Google Talk, Kik, 4chan, 9gag, Stumbleupon, Digg, Reddit, comment boards, podcasts, Youtube, Pandora, Bittorrent, Soundcloud, Netmeeting, Google+... there's a never-ending flow and evolution of ways in which I've networked and experienced an active social life online throughout my life. My favorite form of social media is Twitter...

I have an emotional attachment to Twitter that I share with very few sites. My Twitter followers have seen me rise and fall several times over the last few years. After my document leak with Anonymous, I was terrified. My only reason for going public was to make sure someone would notice if I died. I was shell-shocked and paranoid from the retaliation I faced from BofA for blowing the whistle. The Wall Street Journal and New York Times refused to print anything I explained to them about Force-Placed Insurance. I was too wonky for the general public. My friends at the bank were given the impression they could lose their job for associating with me. My family and friends considered me a failure. The only people listening to me during this transitioning period in my life were Wendy Day and Anonymous. We followed each other on Twitter, but I didn't fully understand the site yet. It was during the Spring of 2011 when I decided to dedicate time to becoming a student of Twitter...

Like a Virgin

When you first login to Twitter, it's a bit intimidating. You don't know who to follow, so you start importing all of your contacts from wherever you have them. That's not the true fun in Twitter though.

The true fun in Twitter is in the Six Degrees of Separation principle (also known as Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, and 874635 other spinoffs). I've created a dozen or so Twitter accounts so far, and I'm still not really sure what it's like to start with a blank slate. I always have a specific target audience in mind when I create an account. With my first account (Versability), I started by following a bunch of MC's, DJ's, and music industry professionals I met through attending Wendy's seminars. My timeline (TL) was filled with brilliant inside information on the music industry. I always loved music (especially Hip-Hop), and Twitter gave me a way to interact with a lot of influential people. When I first blew the whistle, I didn't have time like that for hobbies, so I fell out with Twitter.

After Black Monday, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. I was slowly going broke and desperately searching for a way to both document what was going on and make an income. Wendy and I conversed via email before, during, and after the event. If you don't know anything about her, Wendy doesn't waste her time with bullshit. She's been involved in some of the most brilliant record deals in the history of the music business. The mere fact she was talking to me gave me a focal point through the media storm I faced. She helped me maintain my sanity. I started falling back in love with music and Hip-hop again... and I logged back on to Twitter...

The Branding Challenge

When I came back to Twitter, a lot had changed. I still had quite a bit of music industry info, but I was being followed by a much more diverse crowd: Anonymous... and those who tracked me through the leak. I didn't realize it at the time, but there were quite a few people who somewhat idolized me for leaking bank info, despite it not living up to the expectations of the mainstream. When I talked, people (albeit very, very few) were actually listening.

I got excited and started trying to figure out what to do next. I always knew that my fight with the bank would eventually come down to just me and them. When I spoke to the media in the aftermath of the leak, they would always mention an anonymous spokesperson at the bank who said this or that about me. The idea of having my character dragged through the mud in the media frightened me. I thought that if I could get people to care about me as a person, I wouldn't have to fear anything from the bank. I needed to get more people to listen if I had any shot at survival.

I came across Hajj Flemings' 92k Hour Challenge, and decided to give it a shot. My first attempts were a bit misguided (Warning -- This link contains awful rap music I made that is not suitable for human consumption), but I eventually hit rock bottom and snapped... and it was at the bottom that I began to flourish. I stopped trying to gain followers and instead started pouring my heart and soul into Twitter. Throughout the summer, I bared everything on Twitter. In addition to declaring war on every boundary in the English language or human condition, flirting with every hot broad I came across, hurling insults at the banks, beefing with Joe Black, and generally cracking myself the fuck up, here's a snapshot of some of the events I live-tweeted as I built Versability:

- A near overdose on the herbal potpourri they sell in states that aren't smart enough to legalize marijuana...

- The garage sale I held before losing my house and car...

- The weeks I couldn't afford the power bill in the Phoenix summer...

- The weeks spent on Joon Bug's couch...

- The month I drank all my liquor and wine since I no longer had a place to store them...

- The only drug test I ever failed (and I studied really hard too)...

- Moving into my parent's house...

It's a veritable This American Life. It was admitting to these events on Twitter as they were happening that made me feel comfortable getting out of bed. The police and attorneys and politicians and my family all tried to make me fear the internet. What I came to realize was they're all afraid of the Internet; I'm not. The Internet, and Twitter especially, is where I confessed and indulged in my every sin. It's where I explored humanity. If it wasn't for some tweet I read from Haj's twitter account, which I found through Wendy Day, who I talked to because I blew the whistle, which I did because I witnessed fraud I only saw because I decided to work at Countrywide Home Loans... I would never have discovered the brilliance of Twitter...

Twitter is anything you want it to be...

My feed these days is simply brilliant. It's the perfect mix of informative, educational, revolutionary, and entertaining. Unfortunately for you, my feed is what Twitter feeds to only me based on my tweeting needs. What my followers see in this human centiPad chain is my TL, and that's not too bad either. I do have to warn you, I tweet a lot, and I get very short with people who waste my time. It's a skill I picked up along the way. If you follow me on Twitter, all I ask is you mind your manners. I'm an open and honest man, but I still list trolling and skip tracing among my hobbies. And I run with a mouthy crowd, haha...oh yeah, and if you get offended by anything I tweet on Twitter... just stop following me.

My Conclusion...

We, as human beings, are the society in social media. When governments and corporations blame social media, they're blaming society. When governments and corporations monitor social media, they're monitoring society. When governments and corporations attack social media, they're attacking society. How much more of a beating are we willing to take as a society before we stand up for ourselves? If you think you're tired of seeing these masks everywhere, think about how tired we are of having to keep putting them on...

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In my next piece, I'll be giving the spotlight to a friend I've met through the societal media of Twitter. She's one of the few people who stuck with me as I embraced my demons. Like me, she believes in the ideals of Anonymous. She's embraced social media as well and has seen the re-evolution of society through the digital world. She's witnessed and experienced many revolutions through her stint in social media (and beyond), and has a unique perspective on how this technology is effecting human evolution through the digital apocalypse.

Until then, I send you my love and light...

Namaste...

Brian Penny is a former business analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower who spent the last 2 years helping regulators and attorneys uncover the largest bank and insurance fraud in history. He documents his experiences working with Anonymous and fighting the banks on his blog. He's currently in the Tampa Bay area preparing to live in a van and training to be a yogi under Ally Ford.

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