The 410 in 140: @lizrawr on Twitter's queerness, 'Internet closeness'

Liz Pallia started her Twitter account near the end of college, mostly to avoid writing her thesis. It wasn’t long until her direct messages, she joked, were “like the lesbian confessional.”

The 28-year-old behind @lizrawr said many of her early followers enjoyed living vicariously through the feed of a young, funny Baltimore resident, “tweeting about absurd things people do in their final semester of college.” Pallia, a Bowie native, moved to the city with a friend after graduating from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Many of those early conversations also revolved around queerness, and surprisingly to Pallia, women continuously reached out to her to come out or talk about their feelings of confusion.

“I noticed I was getting a lot of gay followers earlier on, which was interesting because I actually didn’t … Twitter was actually the first place I really came out,” she said. “I would talk about my experiences and my interests because I couldn’t really say anything on Facebook — I’ve got a lot of family on there and I wasn’t out to them yet — so I had a lot of those conversations on Twitter.”

“It was nice that people were comfortable enough with me to do that, but it was also really funny and it was a pattern I noticed — why is everybody coming out to me?” she added. “We’re all still friends now, so that’s a really interesting aspect of it — how queer Twitter is sometimes.”

Pallia, who has about 1,500 followers, since has become one of Baltimore’s most recognizable Twitter figures, frequently shooting off funny quips about everything from karaoke to video games to social justice issues. She now lives in Charles Village and works in higher education.

Though Pallia initially was reluctant to embrace the conversational aspect of Twitter — the strict and “absurd” rules she set for herself included no favoriting, no talking to other people, keep it funny — she abandoned those initial principles in favor of building friendships.

“I started talking to people more and more on Twitter and having ‘tweetups,’ which is my least favorite word,” Pallia said with a laugh. “People would call it that, and I’m like, can you just call it hanging out with Twitter people?”

Those events usually involved about 20 or 30 people (and alcohol). Now, Pallia said, most of her close friends are people she met online.

“On Twitter, you can seek out people who have similar interests to you and have these conversations basically all day, every day, so you get this weird Internet closeness with them,” Pallia said.

Baltimore still has a definite Twitter community, Pallia said, though it doesn’t feel as strong to her as it used to. Everyone’s older, everyone’s busier and some people have moved away or grown apart, just like in real life, Pallia said. She also has found herself less enthralled by Twitter than she used to be.

“Twitter has kind of fallen off a little bit for me, just because I feel like you have to be ‘on’ if you’re going to be tweeting about something,” Pallia said. “It has to be worth something. I don’t want to just tweet, ‘I’m getting lunch at this place today’ or something like that, so I feel like not a whole lot is going on with me lately that I can tweet these funny things that are worth talking about.”

Even if the site doesn’t hold the same appeal it used to, many of Pallia’s personal relationships can be traced back to Twitter, she said, including her friendship with Ann Marie Brokmeier (who has been featured for this series). Brokmeier also introduced Pallia to her girlfriend.

“It’s kind of interesting how much I owe to Twitter and to Ann Marie,” Pallia said. “I know Ann Marie mentioned that I caused a bump in her followers, but I think at this point it got switched around.”

"The 410 in 140" puts the spotlight on prominent Baltimore Twitter personalities. If you have a suggestion of someone to be featured, email qkelley@baltsun.com.

Read interviews with @dennisthecynic, @paulmgardner, @slb79, @annmariebrok, @thebrokenplate and @jazzmen_k.

twitter.com/quinnrkelley

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