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The dream is free. The hustle is sold separately.

Derecka Purnell, Cambridge, Massachusetts

My time on Twitter encompasses seven years and thousands of tweets, so it’s almost impossible to recall when I “met” the people I follow…except for Derecka Purnell. I remember where I was standing and what the weather was like and exactly how I felt when I read her words on my timeline.

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About The #IRLProject

If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that the global village is as real as you want it to be…

In 2009 when I joined Twitter, I had no idea that it would change my life. Through a period of significant and sometimes painful transition, this very modern tool created for me a very old-fashioned concept–community. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that the global village is as real as you want it to be–that you can find mentors, class clowns and activists living on the same street and willing to teach all the things you’ve been longing to know, plus a few that you didn’t know existed (Hellooo FIFA soccer).

Project #IRL is about the joy, wisdom, and expanded horizons that the global village gave me, but also about how that experience created a desire to know more. I wanted to understand why I felt so connected to people I’d never met–to see up close whether we had things in common that went far deeper than our surface dissimilarities. I wanted to see them in the places that shaped them, hear their stories, buy them a meal, and thank them for the way their presence somehow made me feel at home.

So I emailed 30+ people I follow on Twitter and asked if they would let me visit them and see their “real lives.” Twenty-three have said yes, (there may be others who trickle in) and so I am traveling to meet them in person. I’ll be blogging and tweeting as I go and my plan is to write a book about them and the experience of digital community and real-life interaction.


Share Your Story

Mine is not the only story out there about the personal impact of an online community. If you would like to share your story to be posted on this site, please email me at I will be featuring people’s stories here.

About Kate Forristall

Kate ForristallI grew up in Kansas City and Northern California; got an English degree from the University of Missouri and worked for the Kansas City Chiefs after graduation; married young and had five babies in six years. We moved six times before returning in 2001 to the suburbs of KC from New York City.

I began freelance writing while in New York, initially with Columbia University’s law school magazine, and have worked full-time as a fundraiser for arts organizations since returning to the Midwest. I’ve worked part time as an actress for many years and recently finished my first full length play.

My five babies have grown up and gone to college, three of them graduated. They live, work and go to school in Philadelphia, New York City, San Diego, Mississippi College, and the University of Kansas. Hanging out with them is still my favorite thing to do.

You can follow me on Twitter @katainreallife