Breanna Hughes is Twitter famous. People she’s never met yell out her Twitter handle, @unbrelievable, as she rides along Queen Street West to work in the morning.
Or they come up to her at a show, recognize her long blond hair with straight-across bangs from her Twitter profile picture and tell her how great it is to finally meet her in person.
She’s famous for her online comments of 140 characters or less, made to more than 3,700 followers. She gets invited to PR events and scores free trips for being a Twitter “influencer.” The highlight of her Twitter fame has been a write-up on Mashable, a wildly popular Internet news blog.
The attention catches her off guard. “I’m a normal geeky girl,” she says. A normal girl — but one with quite an unusual online life. By 12, Hughes was selling her used clothing online from her small town home in British Columbia. It was around the time eBay started up and she was moderating a message board for girls her age. You needed a credit card for eBay, so they decided to start their own online auction, but for kids (paying via cash in the mail).
Her business took off. The mini chocolate bars she would send along with her old clothing became a hit. Because her online friends in the U.S. couldn’t get Aero bars or Cadbury Flake, they wanted more. She got her parents to drive her to Costco and started paying them for the excessive Internet time she was using. (Sixty hours a month on a 20-hour dial-up plan.)
“It was amazing I had any friends,” she said. In her high school years, her online activities always led to a sort of confession. “I’d say, ‘By the way, I’m an administrator on a message board and have lots of friends online. Do you still want to date me?’”
Now she lives in Toronto and is product manager at an online fundraising non-profit called Artez Interactive. (She studied — surprise, surprise — a degree in computer science.) And gone are the days of online nerds being cooped up in their basements — instead of a barrier, Twitter has been a boon for her social life. She goes to tweet-ups, invites her Twitter friends to live concerts and has tapped into Toronto’s huge tech community.
“It’s a big conversation,” she says. That is, a conversation with thousands of people. You’re free to join in by following her @unbrelievable.
– Read more of Carolyn Morris’ columns at www.metronews.ca/carolynmorris