So a few days ago, I quit Twitter. It’s quite possible that I give in to the temptation and drop in again, but for now, I’m off the grid.
I’m not a very social media-savvy kid. I’m not a kid either, but that’s beside the point. What I am is annoyingly particular when it comes to making the most mundane decisions. Woe betide the guy who stands behind me in the Starbucks line! So true to my nature, before quitting, I made a checklist of what I had expected before joining the site. For starters; I would be learning a new tool. I’d get to hear what some really interesting and funny people were saying. Get to know the news as it broke. On a more individual note, I might feel good about myself if a few people followed me. I could tell the world about all the cool stuff I came across. I could share information on causes I care about. Social media superwoman out to save the world: that’s who I was going to be. And I did manage to get a few ‘followers’. God, that word makes me cringe.
But then I realised something. How many people on my Twitter log are even reading my posts? How much does the time I spend on Twitter doing something meaningful equate to the time I spend stalking people, and the time I spend moping over how cool everyone else is? How much, really? Come to think of it, far too little. Far, far too little. And rather than building conversations, it was killing them. I no longer talked about random interesting info with my friends (nothing to get excited about, mostly oh-look-lol-cats kind of stuff) because we now put it on Twitter/Facebook and surreptitiously checked each other’s accounts.
Twitter isn’t a conversation, it’s a cacophany of voices.
Think about it: if you and I wanted to have a meaningful chat, would we be doing it in a public space? No, we would be talking one to one. The medium doesn’t matter. It could be face to face, it could be over the phone, it could be over an email. But there’s no way it would be on an internet forum.
I guess it isn’t that difficult for others, but for me, this social media-savvy self is hard to coexist with. I have never been able to put a status on Facebook describing my mood of the day. Never shared a photograph either, save for an occasional profile picture, and that was because I earlier had a stock photo of a little girl reading and a friend trolled my wall with questions like, “Who is that? Is she dead? Is her father dead?” Then why did I expect Twitter would be different? A medium where you don’t have friends, only ‘followers’? Twitter is high school played out on the internet, where the celebs and the cool cats are worshipped. Here, the ability to shout the loudest, to be mean and even snarky, is considered a gift. Sure, there are honest, genuinely captivating folks out there. But I don’t really care if they had harees for breakfast. Or their views on every single social media outrage. What I do care about is the work they’re doing, and I can find it elsewhere without all that noise. Though yes, I admit, it is easier to curate it on Twitter.
Ah yes, Twitter has a lot of rib-tickling funny people. 140 characters is perfect for relaying witticisms, I’ve learnt. I’ll miss them. But then again, I don’t need an account to occasionally check what they’re cracking up on. I will miss being able to check up on news, which, I have to admit, always breaks first on Twitter these days.
The point I want to make, and this is where I’m going to be HUGELY unpopular, is that if a large number of people are following the bandwagon, it’s probably something you need to look closely at.
There is so much of bull on the internet. There’s also so much of extremely useful information out there. You could teach yourself almost anything, with a bit of initiative and an Internet connection. It’s up to you what you choose to spend time on. If social media makes you feel happy and connected, by all means adopt it. If it doesn’t, don’t do it merely to look cool. The coolest people are the ones who don’t care how they look.
I also feel that too much of engagement with social media makes you focus on the audience, not the craft. What would work better would be a space free of distraction, without worrying about how an audience will react to it.
‘Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia,’ said the incorrigible Kurt Vonnegut. I think he has a point.
PS: In the process of writing this, I discovered that TL means timeline, and not twitter log, as I had convinced myself over the past twenty one months. Ah, God bless the internet!
PPS: I gave in and eventually re-joined, convincing myself that Twitter was for work purposes. You know, in case someone wanted to verify that I was not a crazy lady with a hat. I’m still off Facebook though, so, small “Yay!” for that.