Sunday, May 11, 2008

Two Weeks of Twitter

Twitter Tree, originally uploaded by pandemia.

Twitter, for me, started during ROFLCon. Ever since, it's been an easy experiment: I like trying to figure out how it works. So far, here's what I've got:

Twitter is a good break from wordiness. In a conversation earlier this week, I compared it to taking a picture a day: trying to encapsulate 24 hours in a snapshot, or 140 characters, forces you to choose carefully. This is nothing new. But I was surprised at how that simple limitation made writing an update such a creative thing. Creative, and easy. It is always good to find simple ways to be creative during repetitive or stressful times. Like finals. i.e. now.

Also: the Twitter scene is opaque to me. Or rather, it's transparent, but I don't really want to jump in? The "@" convention makes Twitter updates feel like Livejournal posts used to, back in the day: clubby and scenic, exclusive and public at the same time. This is natural and not terrible and does not reflect poorly on its practitioners; it's just curious that we use our tools that way. Livejournal posts, incidentally, had a similar convention for noting when you were talking about someone who also had a Livejournal account. Since Livejournals tended to be more social, this convention got used pretty aggressively for social signaling.

Along those lines: I've noticed that Twitter is mostly about work and links and domestic life during the week, and then on Friday & Saturday nights, it all of a sudden becomes a scene report! How weird to come home and then write on Twitter that you spent time with someone who is also on Twitter, who will almost certainly read & respond to your post right away. I guess it's not weird. People do it all the time on the internet, especially teenagers. It's just funny to see the practice resurfacing with adults! Twitter must be the platform on which we've chosen to construct our artificial authentic selves. I think the character limit lends a sheen of realism.

Okay, finally: I think what's so striking about this social signaling in Twitter is that it's imbued with intentionality. On Facebook, when you do something or friend someone or post on someone's wall, Facebook just reports it; the "hey, look at me" is automated. Therefore, the person who wants to be looked at is absolved of responsibility, vanity, or attention-seeking. Twitter is all about self-reporting, and so that all-important illusion of absolution is whisked away.

That said, I kind of love Twitter. It's still uncluttered, and people are still pretty enthusiastic about it. The intentionality may make me somewhat suspicious, but it can also be charming. I like knowing what people want me to know, because the wanting is a window in itself. Artificial authentic selves leave traces of the artifice, embedded in the choices you know have been made. In the end, those traces reveal secret selves better than confessions ever could.

(And I'm here.)


Annemarie said...

dkimbs, this might sound strange, but there's just something so soothing about your writing. It's like listening to really slow music really quietly. except that it's about something. and this is no exception... and how strange it is to read about twitter (which is not at all a soothing phenomenon, quite the opposite) and feel soothed. so keep lilting, ok? xoxoxoxo.

Spencer Miles Kimball said...

Searched for "funny" within your blog. This was at the top. Not particularly funny, so I'm very disappointed (just kidding). I'm not super into Twitting (не Twittering) but it is interesting to read yours. In fact, nobody I know has Twitter except you, so it feels like a tangential phenomenon, one I'm not really party to. Strange.