So first of all, I’m very tired after a late night out (I cannot remember the last time I got home at 4am in the morning….it may well have been more than 5 years ago?!). But I feel the urge to write and I was inspired by an article in The Civilian. So here I am.
Today I’m b***ing about Twitter. Twitter is like the new cool. It’s something that I wish I could adapt to, something I wish I had the natural ability to be good at, and something I wish to be a part of because anyone who is anybody has a Twitter account with a wide following. But like being cool, Twitter doesn’t come naturally to me.
Don’t confuse this with self deprecation though. I have never been cool and I am damn proud to be a Geek, although it hasn’t always been this way. There have been a fair few times in my life that my inability to fit with the ‘in crowd’ has left me feeling like crap. The most uncool I was ever made to feel, was at 3rd form. I was a goody two shoes who enjoyed learning in class, who respected the value and wisdom of (some but not all) our teachers and thus who went to class at the first bell as opposed to 5 minutes after the second bell. I wasn’t sporty – at all, and I didn’t really give two sh**ts about fashion. Dunno why but never really have. I also admit to often becoming teacher’s pet. Not that I really know what this means except that I respected teachers and they respected me. For those reasons, I was never cool. But in spite of that, I have never felt the need to compromise my integrity to please others or to fit in (within limits, I’m not an idiot, for sometimes it’s beneficial to please others).
This is my predicament re- Twitter. For a start, I enjoy keeping up to date with news, current affairs and politics and as I mentioned above, anyone who is anybody has a Twitter account. Better yet, Twitter has up to the second updates for a gazillion different global issues. For that reason Twitter allows me to keep up to date with anything and everything that is going on.
But going back to my point. Twitter, for me, feels like the domain of the cool. Twitter users have this knack of being able to whip out a quick witted, cynical or sarcastic one liner that manages to (apparently) convey their message in 140 characters. I am not quick witted. While I am cynical, this is trumped by my optimism. And I totally suck with sarcasm (unless it’s political satire, this i love!). Never got it. Probably never will. I take things too literally, though this is not to be confused with being gullible. I can smell bull**** a mile away but I’m just too nice to call people out on it unless I really have to. But sarcasm I have an issue with. I just don’t get it. I am pretty up front about my thoughts and feelings (within reason, although I’m not infallible and have got myself in trouble over this). I’ve also been told on more than one occasion that I have what equates to verbal diarrhoea. And while I am not a psychologist and have never studied the psychology of sarcasm, I have often felt that sarcasm is used to avoid revealing someone’s true feelings about an issue. But me, well, I’m passionate and wear my heart on my sleeve and instead of covering up my emotion with a quick witted, cynical or sarcastic one liner, I actually say what it is I’m feeling. And thats not cool.
On top of this, Twitter users have this great ability to make mundane things, like coffee or a glass of wine seem really cool. I just don’t know how to do that. I mean, for a start, I don’t have instagram to give my photos that really cool, grainy, retro look. To be honest, I can’t be bothered with all the various technological tools which help photos look awesome. So when I want to share a photo, I just upload it and the best I can do to enhance the damn thing is to crop it or click that button which automatically makes the colour look fun and bright. That’s it. That’s the extent of energy I am happy to expend trying to make a photo look cool for social networking. Having said that, I have enjoyed photography since before the invention of the digital camera. I was armed with my very own camera on my first overseas trip at 7 years of age and have been taking photos ever since. I have always enjoyed taking care of my composition and lighting. I have always enjoyed sharing photos of family, friends and experiences with other people who care to see them. But this is not about being cool. This is just who I am as a person and even if social media didn’t exist, I would still take pleasure in sharing my photos with people. But I fail to believe that I could ever make a cup of coffee or a glass of wine look as cool as instagram does.
The other thing that I just can’t get the hang of is the 140 characters. As mentioned above, I apparently have verbal diarrhoea. This extends to written diarrhoea as well….if that exists. My best friend and I were really fast at typing, so in our 3rd and 4th form typing classes, while everyone else worked their way through exercises, we were busy typing gossip letters to each other. Over the years, the length of our letters grew and grew and now they are gigantic freakin novellas. And that has slipped into all other avenues of my writing. My text messages are generally comprised of about 3-4 messages. My blogs….well, I cant manage to find an end. I actually have to make myself finish up otherwise I could just keep going on and on. At uni people used to complain about meeting 1,000 words but I often had to cut my essay’s down from 5,000 words! So asking me to try and fit things into 140 characters….that’s next to impossible.
Part of my frustration stems from the issues that I am interested/or not in sharing online. Generally I am not interested in sharing my personal life on Twitter. Well, I have succombed but only because I felt that maybe my ‘exotic life in the South of France’ might get me followers (yes, I am embarassed about that attempt to be ‘cool’. It didnt seem to work anyway). So yeah, that’s not being true to myself and I dont feel comfortable doing that. I do admit though, that until moving to France I also wasn’t interested in using Facebook to share updates of my personal life. Mostly for privacy reasons, partly because I didn’t see the point but also because I just don’t think my life is (normally) interesting enough to other people. But now that I am on the other side of the world, I have found that Facebook is literally the most efficient way to keep everyone up to date with my life, so I have embraced it as a tool to help keep me connected to those who care about me. This is not to be confused with trying to create an image of ‘my perfect life in France’. That would be too cool. If anything, I try hard to disspell that myth and share the realities of my life.
So up until moving to France, I had generally used Facebook to share information and ideas with the people I care about. It may come off as patronising, and I sincerely apologise if it appears that way, but its just that I love learning and I am aware of how information starved we are as a society, particulalry information which presents differing perspectives or decent critical analysis (for example, it is sooo not cool to citicise the Government of the day or hold them accountable – that is well and truly geeky). But I am proud to say that I come from a long line of peaceful protestors and my Koko (grandfather) always taught me to question everything. So the questions what/why/how/where/when, they’re a normal part of my mentality and from asking those questions of anyone and anything, I learn lots of things – important and trivial – that are not always readily available to people. It might be naive but I share these things with the hope people might learn something, appreciate, be touched by or even be enlightened by them. Rarely is it meant to cause controversy…..although, in reality I know this does, but its not my intention. I am acutely aware that everyone has their own unique way of seeing the world, so what I post is not meant to be prescriptive. Its more a reflection of who I am and what I think is important.
Which leads to a general issue I have with social media. Of course we can get a small idea of who people are based on what they post online – provided its a genuine reflection of who they are of course. But there is a risk of presuming too much about other peoples’ modus operandi and indeed their identities. I admit to falling into this trap too. But the thing is, social media only provides us with a small insight into other peoples’ consciousness and this is often carefully managed. On this point, I feel the need to stress that unless you know someone personally, it is naive to assume that a chain of Facebook statuses, Tweets or blogposts provides you with everything you need to know about them. I was actually told off by someone once because of the things that I say online. They did it out of love and concern because they realise exactly this point, that people assume too much from our status and tweets. In that respect, I did appeciate the concern. But I am well aware that it doesn’t matter how one maintains/manages their image, people will interpret things in whatever way they will. For me, there’s no point in expending energy trying to manage my image as opposed to just simply being me. I’d much prefer to share things that are important to me than worry how people will interpret it. Besides, if I’m true to myself then it’ll be much easier to work on damage control if a problem does arise from it. In any case, I personally believe that the best way to get to know someone is to hang out with people and have real-time conversations. This way one would see, for example, that all the negative political commntary that I post is most often said with a whole lot of doubt and uncertainty and a big dorky smile. The tone and body language, as well as dynamic conversation will give you much more of an insight into who someone is, than the carefully chosen words that are used to share things on Facebook/Twitter. Despite having said all of this, the point was to illustrate that Facebook does provide for more space to clarify one’s thinking or to elaborate or discuss issues further than Twitter allows. In this respect, I find it much easier to communicate a range of thoughts and feelings.
As for Twitter most of the people I follow and who follow me, they’re mostly strangers. So I have no desire to share my private life with them. I don’t really see the point in that. After saying what I’ve said above, I’m well aware that I have no idea whether someone is sharing the truth about their reality or if they’re trying to create an image/personna. More importantly, I don’t have the space to share information or ideas that are important to me. I have tried. I have sincerely tried to engage with it. I mean, I see the communities of people that exist in the Twittersphere and its hard not to want to be part of that – to see likes and shares. But it is just soooo blimmin hard for me to squish my thoughts into 140 characters without appearing like an arrogant know it all. I am not that kind of person who proceeds to make all knowing statements, I know there is room for different perspectives. There is often a spectrum of interests and feelings involved in a single issue and I find it really difficult to be concise while being diplomatic enough not to offend people but interesting enough to engage them.
What I find most difficult is that there’s often so much assumption based on one simple tweet of 140 characters. Personally, I find it impossible to infer things about others from just one tweet, particularly when you have no idea about what makes this person who they are. On Facebook, because (I assume) your friends are people you actually know or are acquainted with, you are armed with some guidance in terms of how to talk or respond to them in an appropriate way. Twitter doesn’t appear to do that. Often when people disagree with one another in the Twittersphere, there is an element of respect that seems to have gone out the window. It’s like a free for all. I personally find it quite anarchic in that respect and I’m not really into it. What gives one the right to bully/heckle others simply because they have a difference of opinion (if indeed that is even the case)? Why is it that people presume to know someone’s modus operandi based on a simple 140 characters? And based on this assumption, why is it ok for people to be nasty to one another? Generally speaking, at least in my own experience, this type of behaviour is typical for those that want to keep their place in the cool crowd. I have even seen various Twitter communities seemingly gang up and bitch about other users – worse still, this can come from celebrities and public figures (umm whatever happend to professionalism?)! Sometimes it’s like the schoolyard moved to Twitter.
So back to my point, I am just not cool enough for Twitter. I suppose I wouldn’t have any trouble being cool if I were cynical, quick witted, sarcastic or great at making cups of coffee look like the next best thing since sliced bread. If I was cool enough, I would be able to dilute my messages into 140 characters while keeping people interested in me and my messages. If I was cool enough, I wouldn’t care about divulging my personal life to complete strangers. If I was cool enough, I would have a Twitter community that engages with me instead of feeling like I’m tweeting into a void. But I am a geek and Twitter is just another thing in this world that reminds me of that. Not that I’m complaining. I mean, of course it sucks that I find it difficult to engage with people on one of the most valuable tools of our generation and that’s kinda why I’m writing this. Because I know it sucks, but it’s not the end of the world.
In reflection, I guess I could use this as a platform to ask anyone if they have experienced the same thing or on the flipside, how like minded people have managed to make Twitter work for them.
Peace out 🙂