Monday, July 12, 2010

Twitter has made me think.

First, let me say - I have fallen completely and totally in love with Twitter. It's sort of odd, because in many ways, I have a deep loathing for the concept.

Social media . . . the term alone makes me cringe. Probably all the special looks at it on the news and all the dangers and whatnot that lurk within. I often roll my eyes because there is a certain level of common sense that ought to be involved - don't friend your boss if you're going to bitch about them. Don't put up naked pics of yourself if you don't want them stolen or shared or viewed or sent to your mom. Think about how much personal information is really worth sharing, if you aren't 100% certain who is looking. Don't access things at work that a) you shouldn't be and b) that you don't want to risk others seeing (or at least know how to clear your history and cookies).

Which isn't to say there aren't benefits to social media (and aren't message boards - my heart and soul in a box - also considered social media? albeit, perhaps, in the longer conversational ways of us creaky antiquated old people)(for that matter, aren't blogs as well?), because certainly there are. No one would return to them otherwise.

Clearly, I am receiving some benefit to them as well. I can tell you honestly - I love it. I think, for me, it's the relative anonymity; something I've not really enjoyed on the internets for a long time now. I've been easjer so long in so many places, that is ingrained in me. I think even if I were to choose a new name and start over at, say, thebump (should I ever fall pregnant again for longer than two days - stop laughing), I still think it would eventually become obvious who I was unless I wanted to hide my story or part of me away. Which I don't really do. Obviously, I do (we all do) to some extent, as we would in real life. But I have always tried for a level of honesty and sincerity. I can't imagine hiding away Gabriel, or the other pregnancies, they have so thoroughly altered my life and world view.

So I think it would out.

Which, maybe, is a bit of why I like Twitter. A few people have found me - and well done, you lot. Many haven't. And that's fine. I'm not trying to build followers. I'm not trying to do anything but randomly record my thoughts throughout the day. In many ways, I still feel bound here. There are things I am not comfortable saying or doing here. I feel like I might be letting someone down or being terribly boring and repetitive to say over and over that today is a hard day or a good day. And the mood so often changes before I can really record it on the blog. . . I'm afraid it would be schizophrenic if I were to expound on my every mood. And I'm never sure how much to discuss - I know there are old readers from Chickadee's time, and new readers that have found me through Glow, and I want to be honest about all aspects of this life post-Gabe, but I don't want to seem too sad or discouraging, or too happy, or unbalanced or I don't even know what.

It's hard to explain for those that haven't lived this, and unnecessary to explain for those who have.

So I think Twitter provides an excellent escape from that. And I'm highly entertained by Twitter. Following some of the people I do is fun. I enjoy it. At the same time, I'll admit it's a bit scary. Because I've looked at some of these people's followers and I think they are sort of creepy. They apparently live for getting tweets from celebrities and beg them to wish them luck on the most random things. Or do weird things like find their friends or relatives and follow them as well. Certainly I've started following people through others I follow, but this strikes me as sort of stalkery. I guess I have no desire to be lumped in with these creepy fans.

But, oddly, it's just this sort of thing - following a friend of someone you follow - that led to a very random thing tonight. I won't give you the whole feed, but someone I've never met and never will posted a very thoughtful blog about social media that I found through Twitter. It was largely focused on security and employment, but it made me think about the things I worry about with this form of social media.

On one hand - how fascinating to get a glimpse into the life and thoughts of this person in a totally different country and life. Truly. Something our grandparents wouldn't have thought about, most likely, and certainly not with the immediacy which we can enjoy now. And yet - I can piece together quite a picture of this guy's life (as I expect he could with mine), and yet it's so terribly superficial. Of course, in none of these mediums can we get a true picture (the same is relatively true of face to face interactions) of the persons we are following. So I can tell you that Tiago Splitter claims to be happy to be joining the Spurs and that James Phelps is no longer a ginger and that my friend G wants my apple-honey butter. So what? I don't know any of them any better for those things, not really.

I can tell the world via Twitter that I'm fucking depressed as hell (thanks chemical imbalances) today, but 140 characters doesn't give me much room to expand on that thought. There is back and forth occasionally, which is fantastic. Short brief statements can be entertaining and witty and word tetris is fun (if sometimes frustrating - ask the people on the receiving end of a twitter rant that couldn't possibly be contained in so few words). But it's a superficial interaction, with only very limited possibilities for continuing the interaction.

I'm wondering if it sets society up so that we can only communicate in clips and sound bites (god forgive us for what it's doing to butcher the English language - forums are becoming unreadable because of the inability of the younger folks to write in complete sentences or spell correctly. Also, get off my yard, you young hooligans!). I wonder if we are leaning away from complex and real interactions. Conversations are what drive me - I thrive on them, on digging in and getting to know someone on a deeper level. So 140 words in passing isn't necessarily fulfilling for me.

On the other hand - perhaps this is just a giant party that we're milling about. Or no different than, anyhow. Because in that environment, is there really much more than superficial interaction? I suppose not really. You exchange pleasantries, scope people you find interesting, maybe hang onto that crowd and hope for an opening and then give it a go. And then find if there is a connection, another bit is exchanged, another phrase, perhaps a topic of mutual interest comes up and then you are talking. And you likely find another place to talk - moving off into a corner (or direct messages that are more private on twitter), or leaving the party altogether (taking it to personal email or text). Perhaps Twitter is merely an introduction to these other things.

This person made an interesting point that he feels Twitter expands possibilities - that his friends are largely similar so he's less likely to find new things from them, whereas Twitter opens up a whole new world to explore, and brilliantly, if you don't like it, you move on to the next person.

There may be something to that, there may be something to the idea that it merely encourages superficiality and replacing genuine intimacy with oversharing. I have to be honest and say I never expected to think so much on this because of Twitter. And yet, here we are.

1 comment:

Jess said...

This entry came at a good time for me. I'm currently teaching a class on Media Services for my college's "Library Technology" program, and just covered Twitter last week (along with other "social media" like Facebook). One of my students just flat out didn't get why Twitter was useful, and I had a hard time explaining it to someone who only uses the computer for checking her email and word processing. It's a way of life, and it's insane and sometimes wonderful, and it has it advantages and disadvantages like everything else. It's necessary for institutions like libraries who need all the press they can get just to keep their doors open. Ah, but Andrew Carnegie would weep :)