That damn blue bird.

After weeks of feeling overwhelmed and unsure of myself, I followed the advice of a friend and put myself on a Twitter-fast last Sunday.  After posting about my last giveaway, I signed out and stepped away.  Within a few hours, I found I was slapping my right hand with my left.  My instincts were such that my partner had even noticed that there was a sequence to how I opened tabs in Firefox: Gmail, Google Reader, Facebook, Twitter.  Every. Single. Time.  That isn't where the problem started, though.  I'm comfortable being a creature of habit.  I take my shoes off left before right, I put my bag in the same place, I have the same pad of paper (from a vendor) that I use as a coaster at my desk, and I can't fall asleep unless I'm sleeping on my left side.  All well and good, I think.

The issue was in how I had tangled my emotional self up in a social networking service.  Close to two years ago, I gave up MySpace, and over the past year I've cut down the amount of time I spend on Facebook (and in many ways, I only keep it because certain members of my family have trouble communicating any other way), and I joined Twitter expecting that I would use it to promote my shop and my blog.  But it really didn't stay like that for long.  I started following like-minded people (or so I thought) who were involved in the craft scene.  I followed a few celebrities and other people whose lives were of interest to me.  I tweet anywhere from 5-50 times a day, depending on the conversations I have and what is going on in my life.  I started to gain followers here and there and it seemed fine.

Twitter is not fine.  For me.  And quite possibly for anyone else.  As with all things, it might be fine in moderation, but it is not anything but indulgent.  On Sunday night, about nine hours after I started the fast, I was laying in bed talking to Em about the day and what feelings were bubbling up.  Quickly I realized that I was not experiencing life according to life's terms, but I was challenging myself with living a life that could be, in every moment, encapsulated into 140 characters.  Phrases like, "are you going to tweet that?" or "I need to tweet this!" became common place in my relationships.  And, because there is a part of me that is still nursing the wounds inflicted on me in high school by the popularity machine, I invested a lot of my short-term happiness in the validation of others.  Living a tweeter's life does not afford anyone the opportunity to reflect like this, and I am also confident that there are many people who don't have it as bad as I did/do.  Trust me when I say that I am projecting this onto no one, but also suggesting that I am not alone in this.

A week or so after I decided to batten down the hatches and make my Twitter account private, things took a turn for the worse.  Because I chose a list of people that I felt I shared commonalities with, I started caring about what people were saying.  I hypothesize that most people, on Twitter and in the world, don't think for a second what comes out of their mouths or from their fingers.  Two people offended my sensibilities without a shred of intent, and when I quietly pushed them out of my way so that I could experience Twitter according to my terms, there was flailing.  I am under no illusion that I probably offended a number of people as well, which only emphasizes that which I have unearthed within myself during this fast.  It does not indicate a positive evolution of humanity when we are encouraged to say whatever comes to mind without an ounce of hesitation or conscious examination of how it could be received.  Alternatively, aggregating millions of opinions and experiences into a place where you can elect what you see and what you don't but not necessarily encouraging dialogue about any of it creates a culture of simultaneous arrogance and invisibility.  How can it not?  What I am saying has value and you must react to it; if you don't, I will feel small!

My final issue with Twitter is that it encourages people to stop being genuine and to construct an image for personal and professional gain.  A friend, who at the time didn't know me as well as I thought I could be known, told me that it seemed I craved authenticity.  She's right, I do.  The sort of environment where people, specifically crafters and makers, are desperate to market themselves in any way possible does not help illuminate their most authentic traits.  I am unsatisfied with the connections I've established via Twitter not only because they are not real, but because THEY ARE NOT REAL!  I would be better served assigning a weekend to every friend I desired to maintain a connection with so that we could chat and laugh than to maintain superficial and ancillary connections with hundreds of people I probably wouldn't be moved to like in "real life".  Additionally, it would feed my soul.  It would be restorative and helpful to my enduring evolution as a kind, thoughtful, and unique person on this planet to have real relationships over electronic ones.  I have always known this and I have always been desperate for attention.  I am a Leo, after all.

I haven't yet decided how I want to proceed with Twitter but I do know that I don't want to spend any measurable amount of time there anymore.  I want people to visit my shop, read my blog and engage with me in smart, thoughtful, fun and even sometimes serious ways.  But I can't do it there.  I also need to stop being afraid to let people go, as quantity is not an indication of successful relationship building.  Quality is, and that cannot be measured in followers or retweets.

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Image courtesy maryandjane on Etsy

1 comment:

  1. this is a great post. I have not delved into twitter. I had an account but never used it so I deleted it. I don't have a cell phone where I can post things so I didn't see the sense.

    To me social networking is important. I finally admit that without shame! I've been blogging for over 5 years and I have met (and not met) many amazing people, yourself included. Social networking has led me to many people who I value as much as "real" people in my life, some of them much more.

    I had noticed lately that I was doing a lot more facebook updating, kind of like twitter. I starting blogging more often and that has actually been great. Not as many people read my blog but that's fine.

    I have always been a diary-keeper/journaler, etc. It has been the best way for me to get my thoughts out. FB is def contrived...esp b/c FB has so many people on there from so many parts of my life. I feel like the people who read my blog know me more as I am today, not the person I was in high school or whatever.

    This has nothing to do with your post, so Im sorry for venting...but I agree that sometimes a break is needed and sometimes a reality check is needed with social networking. There was a great article in Bitch magazine this month about FB, you might want to check it out?

    Holly

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All content © Meaghan O'Malley, 2009-2012. Header image by Rebekka Seale.