Reflections of a Self-Conscious Twitterer

Personal history, events, choice, and the cultural tools of society among many other things forge the shaping of an identity. The overlay of culture and its creations impinge upon, constrain, challenge, reinforce, or allow to bloom an individual’s conscious identity.

Twitter, a “social media” tool, highlights the imperative to craft an identity. It’s another venue where we can check ourselves within the maelstrom that is the onrushing digital life. And see who’s hot or funny or vulgar. Check all three? “That’s gold, Jerry, gold!”

That just came to me. When I got the impetus to write this I thought about the “Seinfeld” episode in which George says everything he’s done in life is wrong. Jerry says to him, “If everything you’ve done is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right. Do the opposite.” George temporarily takes him up on it.

That’s sort of what I’m doing here. I want to interrogate why I use Twitter, what I hope to get out of it; perhaps start a conversation about why you are here.

The idea that I could have an interaction–however faux–with someone I admired was and still is an attraction of the service. I’ve just lowered my sights after a strange set of events near the beginning of my time on Twitter. But enough of that.

I am not looking for friends here. I am uncomfortable with it, but I would not preclude friendship, were it to develop. I prefer a more organic way to develop camaraderie, but my opportunities for such have dwindled, frankly. I’d like to get what I can take.

I do want to connect, and I crave feedback. Writers want criticism if it’s relevant, fair, and of utility to them.

So how much do we give of ourselves, how much do we divulge? We all struggle with it for one reason or another, or to varying degrees. What is your identity? Is it in flux? Having a hard time? Are you good? What’s your angle? Are you a bot? Could you be a psychopath?

Twitter is so unnatural to our past way of being. Never before have we had a megaphone to the world–a channeled one, to be sure, but this flavor of the internet has made the world a smaller place. I learned I have something in common with a Japanese woman who writes for the New York Times from Tokyo: we like baseball, and have corresponded about a guy who played in Nippon Pro Baseball and the National League.

How unnatural is it? It can be surpassingly novel if you are new to it or you are restless and seek new voices. It can be jarring. Yet it also is a too-familiar simulacrum of the world we inhabit, with its culture of celebrity and hierarchy of authority. So, it’s not too exotic a place. We should rectify that.

Why don’t people engage me, I wonder. Partly it’s because they can’t get a handle on why they should care. What’s the disconnection? Fame, notoriety, or noted expertise. I’m working on that.

Of course, this is why I don’t follow you, and why famous people do not appear in my list of followers. I’m no better than you in this respect. One caveat: I’m a news/baseball junkie, so a lot of my follows are of sources, official or otherwise.

The fact is I have no idea why the people who follow me do so! They don’t say anything to me. They stand as mute observers. It’s odd.

I have not taken the time to see what they are saying to others, to find out if they would interest me. (I can contemplate this since my group is so small.) I think it’s incumbent upon those on the service to have something to say. I will go out on a limb to assert that sitting and monitoring the passing parade isn’t enough. Join the fray. I will resolve to engage them, too.

This is all very obvious and you can call me naive. You can infer that my personal social network is weak and not strong and that I should do something about it. You would be right. There are extenuating circumstances, you see…

But this leads to the paradox referenced above. We sit back saying, “Prove yourself to me. Make me think. Give me news. Above all, entertain me!” Is that right? It can be, but it’s so vaguely, deeply unsatisfying. The same old cliques and mores are reified within yet another space we virtually inhabit.

Perhaps I’m expecting more out of Twitter than it can provide. Somehow, that doesn’t seem right, though. It can be wondrous: the first news of import; links to great stories; ingenious language uses unique to the format; a photo of cute schoolgirls in Haiti, and on and on.

For me, Twitter is a metaphor for how I often feel–that I’m shouting down a well, heard only by myself, frustrated…impotent. Incapable of moving the needle on public opinion or private sentiment.

But I’m not without a voice. I’ve stopped fretting that I got little traction. There was no bait and switch. The meritocracy of the word does not reign supreme. I still wonder…

Here it is: I’m much more interesting than I’m being given credit for. There’s a dearth of evidence that I am appreciated. What was that? “I’m not going to be ignored!” LOL…go fuck yourself.

The virality of the inanity I get, so to speak. It seems that by dumb luck someone should’ve caught something from me by now.

But it’s out there, ephemeral yet permanent, inscribed on the web, topical, and maybe timeless.

Maria Bustillos writes for the New Yorker, often about writing. This week she wrote about how writers, anonymous or infamous, become tied to their work in the public consciousness. She wrote,

“Beyond this…lies the deeper problem for those who imagine that they can write, and yet escape a reckoning. Writers are generally fated to commit the truest parts of themselves to the page, whether they choose to own their work in public or not. That is the ultimate vulnerability, and it is inescapable.”

I choose to, and will continue to do so. I await any applicable reckoning. That’s what I do here On the Top Step.