A term born as a Twitter hashtag, I am not even sure who exactly came up with it first, but it perfectly describes the interwoven connections that form among us whisky folks on social media. Of course such a phenomenon is not unique to whisky. It could just as well be about sailing or knitting, or postage stamps.
A few other bloggers have already written about it, but I won’t list any names or ‘handles’ here. It is about the fabric after all, not about the threads that it is woven from, and it is not restricted to Twitter either. Facebook, forums and other sites play their part in it too. But it was on Twitter where the term was coined, and Twitter is indeed a bit of a special place.
Recently a well-known person from within the whisky industry who just had joined Twitter complained about “not getting” it. Yes, it took me a while as well to figure it out. Simple 140 character messages can become quite complex. It is indeed a somewhat strange mix of information, chat and self-promotion. Often ridiculed as platform for useless status updates that are as interesting as a Barbara Cartland novel (“Eating a banana now”), Twitter can become a very powerful tool, if used properly. Not action, but interaction is the secret word here. Asking questions and responding to them, the ability for consumers to directly connect with the industry and vice versa, an intense discussion spinning off from a short remark, or just joking around; in the end all this creates a complicated network of communication, a virtual community, the whisky fabric.
Facebook is a much more visual medium where many discussions are prompted by pictures posted. The threaded nature of Facebook talk makes it easier to follow topics, while Twitter is more of a giant communicational mosaic. Both mediums are equally effective in fabric-weaving, in my opinion. Every tweet and every klick on the ‘like’ button makes it a little denser, and your personal global whisky network will grow as well.
But as long as the communication just happens online, the fabric is only virtual. The real power of the whisky fabric lies beyond virtuality, that is in real life.
Want to swap whisky samples with someone out there? No problem, there are lots of people interested in this. Just ask. Fabric weavers may also offer you a dram or even accomodation should you happen to come around their neck of the woods. And when you are part of the whisky fabric, you will never be alone at a whisky event. You will always bump into someone you ‘know’, and here is your chance to get to know them in person. This is where virtual ‘friendship’ can turn into real friendship. Some whisky people I have met a while ago have become very good friends, and some I have met recently will become very good friends.
Removing the quotes from the ‘friends’ is probably the best of what the whisky fabric has to offer.