That damn blue bird.
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.
Image courtesy maryandjane on Etsy