Mistakes & lessons for other people

I almost started a fire in my apartment over the weekend. I thought the bottom compartment of my gas stove was just like every electric oven I’ve ever used: where you put your aprons and extra pans. I quickly learned it was not.

My friends Colette and Sarah were at my apartment at the time. After I opened some windows and threw away the melted parts of the polyester fabric, the first thing I thought was, “I should tweet this.” I figured it was a funny story that would get some likes and make people laugh.

Then writer and editor Nicole Cliffe retweeted it with the acknowledgement it happened to her too. A few of her followers chimed it with the same, and one person specifically mentioned burning a wooden cutting board.

Notably, one Twitter user linked to a story in the Columbia Spectator (the university’s student newspaper) about a group of Barnard students who had actually started an oven fire on the sixth floor of their residence hall from this very same experience in 2008.

Cut to earlier today: I remembered recommending the Olympus TP-8 recording pickup device to another Columbia journalism graduate student.

“I don’t have a lot of experience, but I have learned some stuff, and I definitely would have loved someone to tell me this stuff when I was in journalism school the first time.” The other student had contacted me during a night I was tweeting out advice and I mentioned the TP-8 to her at the end of our conversation over coffee.

But when I thought back to it, I just figured a lot of people already knew about what I considered to be the best way to record phone calls. (It doesn’t even require an app on your phone.)

One major benefit of Twitter is how short it is. So I figured there was no harm in posting a link to the device on Amazon.

The reaction was better than I expected. Some people didn’t know what it was and what it could do, other friends enthusiastically chimed in about how much they liked theirs. So then I posted a link to it on Facebook for other people in my journalism program.

Ultimately, sharing both of these things on Twitter taught me two important things:
a) something you thought was a dumb mistake may actually an incredibly common experience
b) something you thought was common knowledge in your industry may actually be new information to many of your peers.

As a result, I felt less stupid and realized I could help other people in my program with fairly little effort.

Twitter is often a dumpster fire for many users (especially women, people of colour and members of the queer community). But for many others like me it still has the ability to be a fun place to make goofy jokes, share advice, test story ideas and also feel less alone about the simple mistakes of adulthood.

And if you’re wondering, my oven mitt survived. It looks a little odd, but that just means I have an extra excuse to tell a funny story every time I cook for friends.

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