Let’s say you use Twitter correctly. You can get breaking news and funny or cute videos updated live for free, tailor made to your exact preferences. You can repeatedly ask Nas how his day was. You can be kept up on your favorite teams, find fans to agree or argue with, or even play stupid @midnight games to get all those puns out of your system.
This isn’t about that. This is about the people who tweet. This is about over-sharers and over-tweets, about kids these days and their social media.
I am an over-sharer, an over tweeter, and all the rest. And while I’m not particularly proud of my Tweeting, I’m not particularly ashamed of it, either. Who has the time for that? I’m still backed up on shame from when I was fourteen. My tweet-count doesn’t even crack the top four-hundred embarrassing things about me.
Still, some people feel weird about Twitter or social media in general. So, here are some quick thoughts on why we (I) tweet the way we (I) do.
1. It’s Basically Magic
Twitter lets you choose from buffet of options. You can pluck thoughts from your friends, to BBC to Steve Martin to the occasional Kanye West rant that updates live.
You know what that is, right? It’s a fully customizable rudimentary psychic network picking up the thoughts of the people you most want to hear from. On your phone. For free.
Savor that for, like, two seconds.
2. A Network Can Be A Net
I had a strange, lonely and stressful year in New York, and Twitter helped.
Don’t get me wrong. It was not the only thing that helped, or the main thing that helped, but it did. Twitter, for me, is like a diary I’m trying to impress but that made it helpful to outsource my fears and anxieties to. Writing thoughts down, even in short, anxious bursts let me parse them, and having them seen felt validating: problems that seemed enormous in my head felt smaller when I knew they were seen and acknowledged outside my own self. And if you think virtual affirmation is a sad thing to cling to, I hope you’re never as lonely and as worried as I was.
Don’t worry. I’m back in Boston now, surrounded by friends and activities and I have the sort of deep, true happiness that dogs have in commercials. I tweet (a little) less, but I still tweet, because it’s a habit and I like it. But back in New York, Twitter was a world I could outsource to and feel a thin sense of consistency with.
That might not be a cool way to feel, but it’s what I felt, and the sooner we’re honest with each other about how feelings work, the better off we’ll be.
3. Social Media Is Still Social.
There’s a lot of handwringing over social media, but isn’t it admirable, impressive, and almost awesome, biblically awesome, that with all the amazing things internet could offer, we just want each other? There’s a beauty in that, a poetry of sorts.
Surrounded by artifice, shrouded in screens, people like people.
4. A Wider Pool Of People Means More Cool People.
I know cool people on Twitter. They are my Twitter pals. And if you think it’s strange to like people from Twitter, or consider that a weirdly bland dystopian future of “kids these days” consider how many of your favorite people were a matter of circumstance: childhood friends from your town and best friends with your exact floor in college. I’m not going to apologize for being quick with admiration or interest. I like people, as a general rule, and given the vast infinity of the internet, it stands to reason I’d have 0nline Palz.
That reminds me. Thanks to Twitter, I’m decently big in South Africa. So, while we’re here, a big shout out to South Africa.
Also, that is a deeply cool thing to write.
Twitter offers possibilities and worlds and opportunities and ideas and news and jokes and people. At the very least, you shouldn’t prevent yourself from forming quiet appreciations or affections for people- the world needs more of those, after all, and why begrudge that happiness on the technicality of it being the internet? And, at the most, it’s certainly no sketchier than Tinder. I’d argue that it makes more sense to crush on someone for their words anyway.
The real world isn’t going anywhere. Twitter, as a supplement, can make it that much more interesting.
5. It’s a Game
Heads up: Twitter is a game.
You might have noticed that. It’s on your phone, there’s a point system, and, like Flappy Bird, it’s both addictive and mocked for its addictive qualities. And, while annoying, they’re both fairly harmless.
Twitter is a lot less of a dangerously pointed issue and more of a publicly agreed upon recreation. And, by that token, it encourages talking and jokes, self-expression and checking in, tangentially or not, with the lives of others. That makes it less solipsistic than other games, at the very least, and if not, can we agree, at least, that it’s not Farmville?
Twitter is fast, addictive, and easy. That’s not great, but it’s not unique, or inherently bad, or even an imminent threat to society. Did Flappy Bird destroy your friendships? Okay then. Neither will Twitter.
“For sale, baby shoes, never worn,” is complete, a poignant story by Hemingway, and it’s arguably even better than my story “Spiders ate a whole town, yo!”
Whichever story you prefer, both accomplish the same goals. Both are short, succinct, and powerfully emotional. The first elicits nuanced pain, sadness, sorrow and regret, and the second evokes the universal surprise of spiders straight up eating a town.
There are two fantastic upsides of brevity. The first is that it encourages reading, and absorbing. An essay is work. But Twitter? Just a sentence. Then another. And another. Momentum takes you further and farther than you thought you could go, and it forces both the writer and the reader to pack as much as they can into a very limited space. As a result, wording and phrasing are often given specific, sharp attention. At its best, each tweet is an exercise in creativity.
The second and most important reason brevity works is that it encourages participation. A diary is tough to start, but your feed can evolve into it. A stand up career takes work, but if you find yourself funny and thinking, Twitter can slowly glom together your act. Twitter only asks for a minimal, tiny investment to start writing or reading.
So get started. Scroll ahead. Tweet. It’s a sentence or two, but see what happens, what worlds you write or worlds you find. It may surprise you. And even if it doesn’t, it’s certainly no worse for you than Candy Crush.