What happened when I embellished, on Twitter, a tale about a mysterious train ticket.
- The background: in early May, I received a train ticket in the post. The ticket was from Nottingham - where I live - to Matlock, dated for July 16. I hadn't ordered the ticket. I had no reason to be in Matlock on July 16. I was puzzled. I phoned the train company, who confirmed that the ticket had been bought and paid for by a third party, for delivery to me. I asked Twitter for advice; I asked if I should go to Matlock on July 16. Most people said I shouldn't; a few people, in a frankly voyeuristic spirit, said I should.In June, the mystery was solved: the organisers of a reading I was booked to do in Buxton had sent me the ticket. Not all that exciting an outcome.I started thinking about what it would have been like to use the ticket while still having no idea who had sent it. I imagined detailing this trip on Twitter, in real-time. I forgot about it again.On a whim, on the morning of July 16, I decided to act as though it was still a mystery.
- At this point, it wasn't clear how seriously anyone was taking me; or indeed whether anyone was all that interested. And even at this early stage, a doubt was raised:
- I took this as reassurance. I assumed that if someone was already doubtful then perhaps I could continue and the whole thing would be taken as tongue-in-cheek. I went in to a meeting for a couple of hours (and, for a record, those who doubted; I really *did* go to a meeting).When I came out of the meeting, interest in the #MatlockMystery had built up: it was being retweeted and reported, and people were being encouraged to follow me in order to find out what had happened. The notion of any of it being tongue-in-cheek seemed to have fallen off the radar.
- And then a weird thing happened. Cultural historians of Twitter will think of a name for this one day: the sensation where, once people take an interest in something you're tweeting about, you feel the need to justify or fulfill that interest. It's something about feeling a responsibility to the audience. It's similar to when you're telling an anecdote in the pub and you realise more people are listening than you expected: you embellish the anecdote. And I'll admit I was enjoying the audience, the interaction, and the sense of real-time storytelling.