My foray into the Twitter discussion
I suppose this is long overdue, and a few weeks after the teapot tempest. I said things then, but kept within the 140 character limit, feeling I didn’t have anything much else to add to the discussion. I still don’t, and this is all very rambling, but I feel like saying something. Anything, even.
It seems every few months there’s some urge on Twitter that’s somewhere between Junigan theories of society and the myth about lemmings. You find yourself within a social circle and, just like with every social circle, you start meeting a friend of a friend of a friend. Sometimes you get on, sometimes you don’t.
All at once, it seemed, our vague little Twitterati realised that on Twitter, you don’t need to interact with the people you don’t get on with. There’s the risk they unfollow you, and that golden turd of a number on your page goes down by one, but you don’t need to listen to somebody discuss shit you don’t want to hear about.
Why did we all seem to realise this at once, though? Yeah, it seems obvious. Check somebody out, if you don’t enjoy their tweets, unfollow. Why wasn’t it obvious to us all? Or was it, but we were just too scared of the mutual unfollow.
Twitter can be a great social circle, business network, and screaming hole. (Everyone does have a screaming hole, don’t they? Oh dear, that does sound very wrong.) Working from home, it’s often the office banter I used to take part in, complete with the eavesdropping on the conversations of others.
But it’s also got that tinge of the schoolyard. There are the popular kids, the geeks, the clowns, and the outcasts. And we’re all there, shouting as loud as we can.
My obsession on Twitter hasn’t ever been the followers. I am happy to be over 300 followers now, and it makes me feel like, as a writer, I’m achieving something (I’m really not, and I do know that, but it has actually led to a few great writing opportunities). I have an audience, which is all any of us want in life, right?
Not for me. It’s nice, but my secret little drive is the reply and the retweet. That’s what I judge myself on. I don’t care how many people are possibly seeing my writing (and it is only possible… I miss at least half of what everyone writes even after cutting back on the number of people I follow). I want to know that they’ve read it and found it interesting enough to reply. Even better, I want to know that they’ve read it and found it such a perfect statement in 140 characters or less that they’ve decided they can do no better than that. I want them to retweet it, to share it further.
Twitter is often a conversation, and it does take dialogue. It’s often a good place for debate and discussion (whether on great political questions or the conundrum of why Simon Amstell is trying to act and, more puzzling, why the BBC is letting him). You have to be a part of these discussions to get the replies, unless you’re a celebrity, but that’s a whole other issue.
And maybe that’s my problem. I want to be the writer-celebrity. I want to be elevated amongst the twit-masses. It’s horrible and disgusts me to even say it, but it’s true.
I don’t think I’m alone in this, though, and I think the desire to be the celebrity, even within a small circle, is behind the recent brou-ha-ha. If people are deciding to unfollow, it’s not just about your numbers dropping, it’s about the base level rejection. It’s being told by somebody in your circle that you aren’t good enough.
Twitter is full of value judgements. Most of it is criticism or praise of one thing or another, even if it’s just bus service or what the neighbour is wearing. But that’s all directed at the outside world. That’s Twitter vs non-Twitter. Even when I had an odd run-in with a celebrity on my old account, it was our Twitter vs celebrity Twitter.
When we make the decision to unfollow an Twitter equal, we’re making a call about individual worth. Looking at it as a schoolyard, it’s the same rejection that probably caused us all sorts of tears as kids. Looking at it as adults, though, it’s like the end of a relationship. When done badly, it’s like being dumped, very publicly. When done quietly and in private, it’s not so bad. But when has anything been done quietly and in private on Twitter?