It all started one day when Anil Dash pointed out how many black people use Twitter. I realised most of my Twitter friends are like me: white dorks. So I picked out my new friend and started to pay attention.
She's a Christian, but isn't afraid of sex. She seems to have some problems trusting men, but she's not afraid of them, either. She's very proud of her fiscal responsibility. She looks lovely in her faux modelling shots, although I am surprised how much her style aligns with what I consider mall fashion when she's a grown woman in her twenties. Her home is Detroit and she's finding the process of buying a new car totally frustrating. She spends an embarrassing amount of time tweeting responses to the Kardashian family.
Sometimes I find her faith charming; other times it is frustratingly childish. "Thanks Lord for letting me see another day!" can be followed by a retweeted "God is THE MAN!" All that can be followed by jokes about someone being a "squirter" in bed. I try not to extrapolate about her culture from just one person's Twitter stream, but that's also sort of exactly what makes following a random person so interesting. Are black Christians more open about their sexuality? Young people? Northern people? I've just got this single data point, but it's more than I had before.
One of the best things about Twitter is that, once you've populated it by friends genuine or aspirational, it feels like a slow-burn house party you can pop into whenever you like. Yet even though adding random people on Twitter is just a one-click action, most of us prune our follow list very judiciously to prevent tedious or random tweets to pollute our streams. Understandable! But don't discount the joy of discovery that can come by weaving a stranger's life into your own. You can start simply, like I did, by finding someone charming and attractive. (I'm not ashamed to say I enjoy looking at the sexy pictures she puts up when she's flirting with guys online.) Once you've got the chops for it, you can move onto more advanced randomness: following a die-hard Justin Bieber fan even as Bieber's fame has started to peak.