Relying On The Dark Side
I’ve been trying to explain Twitter to friends. I know; it’s been over a decade, and what kind of people am I friends with?
I’m not defining Twitter in these conversations, just describing its functionality. Even non-tweeters (or non-tweet readers) understand the broad-brush version. Twitter is a sewer; if the internet is the id of humanity’s psyche, then social media is the id of the id, and Twitter is the id of that. I apologize to sewers.
Even for people who roam the streets of Facebook for hours, Twitter is a bridge that is obviously close but emotionally too far. It’s built not for interaction as much as reaction, and the bane of modern existence, anonymity, is the lingua franca. The weird but apparently common compulsion to write aloud what swooshes through our minds, without fear of any consequences from our actions, is alive and well on Twitter. Talk about defining; that’s it. Twitter is where you go to be as awful as you like. It’s Westworld without the charm.
The good news is that most people who have an interest know all about this, and they stay away. It requires a certain sensibility, even for those of us who just read. I know people (I say I know; I mean, I follow) who seem to relish heading into battle with trolls, the way some people munch popcorn and laugh through horror films. Some of us just don’t watch.
But Twitter is invaluable to me, particularly in this time and place. Facebook is for friends, and Twitter is for strangers, and there’s little overlap for me. It’s the easiest social medium to curate, and since there’s no sense of responsibility to follow someone you know (you probably don’t know many), it’s possible to do Twitter any way you like. And I like to follow journalists. Journalists live on Twitter.
And they post relentlessly. They plug their own pieces, and the work of their colleagues. Breaking news breaks on Twitter first, and it’s the first place I head in the morning to catch up. It’s almost purely of the lurking variety, another aspect of social media I don’t care for; as with the early days of blogging, I nurture mild disdain for people who read (and comment) but offer us nothing in return. They often seem like very nice people, and I’m sure they have no idea that I occasionally think of them as leeches. Not the good kind of leeches.
But I’m OK with my own Twitter reluctance, since I don’t think I’m good at it. I’m not particularly pithy, for example. I don’t think or write in a particularly linear fashion, and I absolutely don’t write short. I need a runway, and Twitter is just a parking space.
It’s extremely valuable to me, though, especially now when I have less work than I need and no sign of more coming soon. I have to stay busy in the meantime, and Twitter helps me grasp the world in an immediate way with little time investment.
This means I probably know more than you do, which is why Twitter comes up. All sorts of friends want to engage with me at different times about current events, and all sorts of them get frustrated (apparently) by their inability to bring me news. I already know. I’ve got the time.
As one of the writers I follow recently tweeted, when offered some form of mansplaining by a follower who didn’t grasp the nuances of satire: In what universe would I not know that? It’s my mental go-to these days, anywhere on social media. Why are you posting a story I read, at the source, three hours ago? Three days ago? It’s arrogance on my part, at least some of it, but also just a lack of awareness on the part of the posters. The assumptions will always get you, always.