Thursday, July 23, 2009

On Not Twittering

Twitter: that thing where you write things that are 140 characters or less and follow people and read what they're saying all day long. I dunno. I'm not on that bandwagon yet.

Me and technology, we get along just fine. I can build my own computer (and have done, and probably will again). I pretty much know what most of its components do, if not exactly how they do it. I can knock out a half-decent website pretty easily, and I've got the whole blog and Facebook thing going on. I can program the VCR (well, PVR, but same difference). My iPod and I are inseparable. But Twitter?

I think my Twittereticence is something along the lines of my early Facebook reticence--do I really need to know what everyone is doing and thinking at all times? Do people really need to know what I'm doing and thinking all the time? And is the time and energy that Twittering (or Facebooking) takes time that I'm willing to divert from other pursuits, like blogging, creative writing, or academic writing? Part of it is that I'm fairly concerned with privacy--yes, I sometimes get personal on the blog, and of course I'm always writing from my own particular perspective, and yes, if you went through and read every blog post I've written and added up the information that I've provided, you could easily find out who I am, where I go to school, what my last name is, and what I look like. (And my privacy reasons are these: possible stalkers, possible later regret, possible annoyance on the part of those who are connected with me, because I can stay stupid things and only people who know me know that I said those stupid things, which is okay). But unless you really wanted to try to figure it out, on a day to day basis, the Miscellany is fairly anonymous, which is how I like it. And Twittering is not so much. I don't think I want to be that out there.

The other issue is time: in the economy of time vs. usefulness/fulfillment-factor/enjoyment, is the time I could spend on Twitter a sound investment? Knowing me, who often takes days to compose a blog post from idea to publication, even 140 characters (especially 140 characters) could potentially take a lot of thought and effort (because short does not equal simple). And as much as the oft-cited haiku metaphor is intriguing (a Twitter post = a haiku, and therefore has the potential to be short, sweet, and striking), I think I'd rather devote the same time to poetic projects that will eventually turn into something larger, like a collection. The other issue is the one that is posed by Scott Rosenberg, helpfully highlighted by my friend Nav, whose post inspired this one: what happens to all of those Twitter posts after they're posted? The thing with the blog, and with all of my other writing, is that it exists for as long as I want it to (or for as long as my hard-drive holds out. Which reminds me--need to add "buy bigger external drive" to my to-do list). The energy that I expend has more than momentary returns, because I can come back to what I've written days, months, or years later and get inspiration, see how my writing is progressing in terms of its skill and fluency, chart my development as a person, remember past events and interests, &c. If Twitter posts are for all intents and purposes lost not long after they're posted, that's a fleetingness that seems akin to eating junkfood--fun at the time, but not much good immediately afterward. I know that my use of Facebook does seem to contradict this point; most of what we do on Facebook is lost in the reams of posts and updates that come after it, but if I wanted to go back and find things, I could (albeit, with great difficulty). But for me, that's not what Facebook is for, which in my world is the new MSN/Evite combo pack with some thrown in for good measure--a way to talk to people, briefly, and to organize ways to see people, with a bit of voyeuristic snooping as an added pleasure.

Another issue, one that I could overcome if I wanted to, is that on many days, I'm essentially in a technological no-man's land from about 7-6. I choose, purposefully, to do much of my schoolwork in a place where I barely get cell phone reception. Great for getting rid of all of those pesky distractions. No internet. No smartphone. So even if I wanted to follow people on Twitter on an ongoing basis, I couldn't. And what's the point of having Twitter if you don't post anything most of the time?

I know that some of you use Twitter, and others may be interested/not interested in it for multiple reasons. I had to be convinced to get on Facebook, long after most people already had--any reasons why I should be convinced to do the same for Twitter? Am I a Luddite?


Anonymous said...

Those are all excellent questions, Melissa. I can't really answer them as such, obviously - it's all about deciding what is and isn't important to you - but I can give you reasons why I like and use Twitter:

1) It connects me with people who I otherwise wouldn't know. I've had brief interactions with my fave columnist (Doug Saunders), other writers from the G&M, creative writers, other tech geeks etc etc. I even got my meagre 'writing gig' through a mixture of Twitter, serendipity and beer. So there's that.

2) I like the idea of self-effacing personal narrative. I don't know why exactly. I mean, I do miss being able to find tweets that at least I thought were sorta' funny (ex: "Thank the dark Lord for good chocolate," I said to myself, suddenly unsure if I'd gotten that sentence mixed up somehow.) But that dispersal of one's self into the ether, though a bit terrifying, is somehow nice. Like I said, I dunno' why.

3) Twitter produces what someone once called 'ambient intimacy'. In my mind, it's especially good at (re)producing the local - Bloor Street looks different to after knowing what all semi-anonymous people think of the various spots along it. But it's nice, particularly for someone like me who spends far too much time alone.

4) People link to cool stuff all the time. Yeah, it's an echo chamber. After a while though, you just get used to it.

5) It encourages two things I really wish I were better at: brevity and wit. Some people on Twitter are really really funny in <140 characters. It's also good practice for paring down ideas, but I'm especially bad when it comes to verbosity, so maybe that's just me.

Hey look, just like this comment! I'll stop now. Alls I'm saying is that I likes Twitter because it works for me and fits into my life and lifestyle. I think it just comes down to something as simple as that.