A Year in a Tweet

Poetry can emerge from imposing a constraint on a message. The cut-off of 140 characters might not exactly be as strict as a haiku, but the challenge of summing up a year in a microblog is a provocative one.

Outlets like the Chicago Tribune, Star Tribune, Sun-Sentinel, Tampa Bay Online, and—of course—the Yahoo! Year in Review site have asked their readers for a holiday tweet.

The message for 2009 from the “Share Your Moments” drawing? The new austerity has helped many reassess what their values are.

“Learned to live with less and appreciate the things that really matter,” tweeted Gerdemean. Besides pennies, people like LARAEDO counted blessings. “We still have a home and a healthy family, we do not have all that we want, but we are lucky enough to have all that we need.”

Speaking of pennies, the retro-trend of coupon-clipping put Doodle741 (AKA Sara Phillips) in a path to her own hearth and home. “I learned how to put what I saving thru coupons in my savings account! Looking forward to buying a home in 2010!! :)”

Just how much did those pennies add up to? “I would say I have set aside about $5,000,” explains Phillips in a follow-up email. Combing through Sunday newspapers, online sites, and store mailers takes her about 30 minutes a week and she deposits the difference. As for the house, approval’s still pending, but those dollars are taking her family that much closer to a Texas home that Phillips wants “to be able to say that it is MINE.”

In a way, tough circumstances meant a relief from that sense of urgency, propelled by our upwardly mobile, eye-on-the-next-opportunity mindset. “Two of my children became teenagers, yeah, fun,” noted 3mnkids. “My husband kept his job, and I, thanks to my youngest, learned to slow down.” Status quo wasn’t just the new state of being: It turned into a path to enlightenment.

Not everyone remained in maintenance mode. “Started new business, 3majorappliances died on me. Adopted 2 new cats,Paid off Credit Cards,” summed up katmagick’s domestic dramas and business triumphs.

In an act astounding for these job-starved days, Erik Proulx put aside opportunities to follow through on his vision: “Turned down three job offers to pursue something I believe in.”

Then again, it took years for the former ad man to be able to say no. In fall 2008, days after talks about raises and promotions, he lost his job. Proulx decided to find 16 of his brethren and do Lemonade, a documentary on the upside of layoffs. He also launched a site “for the recently unemployed advertising professional” called Please Feed The Animals.

As for the gainful employment he declined, one was a job for an associate creative director, a “really lucrative freelance opportunity” (which he still wonders why he turned down), and other offers—all of which he passed on to others. At least one got an assignment.

Proulx has taken some gigs (“need to feed my kids somehow” he writes in an email), but that cut in 2008 went deep. “I’m doing all of this a little recklessly, but it’s for something I believe in deeply,” he reflects. “I just want people not to be afraid to pursue what they believe in. And I am trying to lead by example.”

Behind every Tweet, a million stories.