I started using Twitter in 2009. I quickly found that social networks are much more fun with other people to talk to, so I used the search tools to find local people to follow. Simon N Ricketts (as I will always say his name in my head, thanks to his Twitter handle) was one of the first people I stumbled across and tweeted with regularly. In those early days on the platform it seemed that those of us who found each other were building something special. A community. It felt great. The tools weren’t yet toxic and we helped each other out. Someone sent me some documents to help me with my work. I remember sending Simon some spare iPhone headphones after he had reported that his cat had eaten his original pair. It felt amazing that we could make these connections with each other.
Meeting up face-to-face with our online friends seemed like a great idea. Late in 2009 I organised a ’Tweetup’ to turn our online connections into ones in real life. Simon intended to join us, but had to pull out on the day due to a cold. He came along for the next one a few months later. It was such a pleasure to meet and have a drink with him. These evenings were such fun and have stayed with me all this time — they enhanced the connections between the people who came and made our online interactions even more enjoyable. I can still feel the glow from those evenings all these years later.
Although Twitter faded into the background in my life, I kept up with Simon as his presence expanded. He gained a well-deserved big following from his wit, compassion and humanity which came through in his tweets. I’d find myself talking to random friends, people from other circles, who followed him. My wife would tell me whenever she heard anything about him. He didn’t write many articles for his newspaper, but when he did they were excellent. One Christmas he even popped up on a TV show talking about how Twitter reacts to news stories.
News of his illness was a shock, and the science-fiction-esque treatment that he received was incredible. We kept in touch, mainly through brief check-ins via private messages to see how he was doing. He’d tell me that he “had a fight on” but was always positive. After going through such an incredible trauma, it was so horrible to hear a few years later that he had to take on yet another fight, this time with cancer. As our mutual friend Paul Downey says, life really isn’t fair.
Simon’s writing was always wonderful, and I loved reading his blog posts, even when they were about such difficult and poignant topics as his health. Earlier this month my wife told me that he had posted a note which sounded like he had taken a turn for the worse. As I went to bed a couple of nights ago I checked the news on my phone, and was so sad to read that he had passed away. The outpouring of affection on Twitter and in wonderful blog posts that his friends have written are a measure of the person he was. I am so sorry for the loss that his family and friends must feel right now.
Simon and I weren’t close, but I feel privileged to have known him just a little. Memories of meeting him at our Tweetup, the chats we had online, and our little check-ins over the years will stick with me. The world is a poorer place without him.