DON'T TWEET (I KNOW WHAT YOU'RE THINKING)
Disclaimer: These are some words about the writing process as they relate to the catacombs of internet behavior and social media. This rightfully may not interest you at all.
Earlier this year I thought about the topography of a tweet. You have 140 grains of sand to arrange into a little landscape for people to look at. You can make the most elegant, sublime, funny, poignant little landscape, but it still in the same kind of frame as the other little landfills, scum ponds, sinkholes, trash piles, and garbage pits. Millions of frames that all line up and scroll up like film feeding into a movie projector make it impossible to differentiate between the good and the bad when it all comes down to it especially when you’re just as obsessed with the Good as you are with the Bad.
It was then, sometime in June, at another DJ night at another Brooklyn bar, more than ever before, the days began to feel like a dull pattern that blurred online life and real-world life. I felt unmoored to anything tangible. My impulses existed only in the wake of the internet, and the same ones whorled around each other so fast that every Thought turned an unremarkable beige. Then, the Thought was thrown on twitter or the Thought was tossed about in actual conversation. Everything was automatic and recursive, of and about what happens on a screen that’s connected to the internet.
I know what you’re thinking: I am being too catastrophic about this, which maybe scans as someone taking this all way too seriously (or certainly as an aging technophobe easily dismissed like some silver-haired NYT arbiter decrying the end of twitter. I’m careful to make the following personal and not sweeping, even at the risk of sounding precious).
Part of my disposition since I was a little kid was investing too much the events and people around me. I am, at heart, a hyperemotional and sensitive waif; delicate as a mayfly. It’s probably a type of spectrum behavior, but it stems from not understanding the degrees to which I should care about social interactions. It was always all or nothing: My friends were best friends, I wanted to marry my high school girlfriend, I would cry at the first hint of parental disapproval. I fed off my obsessions until they were mined dry. It’s also why I smoked cigarettes for nine years.
The social media cycle never demanded I become a part of it, but I have. Some people thrive in it, but that’s not the case for me. For me, it has become a daily gnawing at the scraps of a carcass that is online communication. I mince no words when I say it has a totally useless reward system. Those coins you got for Christmas that are in a drawer somewhere are worth more. Arcade tickets are worth more. Everything is worth more than online validation. Underneath all the opportunities, lols, and knowledge that twitter has afforded me by my many friends and acquaintances online, it is ultimately a drug that has had an awful affect on my psyche. I can’t tell the difference between the scenery anymore, and I have lost the plot of why I want to be a part of it.
This is the white noise that often hisses in the back of my brain:
I should incorporate more neologisms into my speech and stop writing in such a stilted cadence, an old habit from when I valued expressive language over everything. I should stop using capitalization in my tweets because who does that anymore. I should do ironic misspellings of words as a sign that I’m comedically self-reflexive about dumb responses, because it’s better to say something than nothing. I should talk about music that’s easier to talk about. I should be more sublime with how I talk about music. maybe noisey is right and maybe music is just bae.
That is such garbage nonsense, but it runs behind my day like tape hiss, and this endemic of how social media has affected me: It’s something I constantly think about. It has tempered my words, blunted my emotions, and homogenized my thoughts so that they are “socially appropriate” which is good for making Limp Bizkit jokes but bad for reading and writing and reporting. I am omitting impulses and leaving them unexamined because they will garner no favs, or I don’t want to come off as argumentative, or I don’t want to look like a dick, or any number of stupid reasons. I have stifled more thoughts this year than ever in my life and instead of moving from one Thought to the next with a fearless gaze I package each Thought into how I could possibly get the most validation from it. The low-grade adrenaline rush of some tweet or post being liked a lot has often been the high point of a day, and that is incredibly depressing when I take stock of “high points” of the year.
I know what you’re thinking: Most people don’t act like this, or are able compartmentalize these things in their mind, or aren’t an autodidact who has used social media to advance his/her career, or can’t imagine this kind of thinking, but I am none of these.
Look at this nutso thing:
This hairy neon mitosis thing is a visualization, a thorough analysis of the social data surrounding GamerGate. One side represents twitter users who are pro-GamerGate, and the other who anti-GamerGate, with gradients in the middle and disengaged people on the sides. The lines connect to who they follow. GamerGate, for all its notoriety, is a prototype of every little flare up that has happened and will happen on social media: A false binary, with two sides barely interested in what the other has to say.
This is an impossible medium for communication, like two people yelling at each other through the holes of the bulletproof window in the jail visiting room, with each person positive it’s the other person who’s incarcerated. Every screenshot of some fantastically misogynistic or ignorant piece of text that hoves into my feed from the other camp is, ultimately, so useless. Why am I rewarding this person for dragging this scrap of rhetoric which no one in their right mind could think is good from the other side? I fav it because it is, in some sense, a victory for our camp. We have captured a piece of their plans, we’ve done some good recon work, we’ve scoped out their place and it looks like trash and here’s some of the trash.
We feel good about ourselves because at least we’re not that horrible thing and we should keep tweeting because we must fight to change that horrible thing. But the hairy neon mitosis inspires little confidence in the efficacy of this process.
I know what you’re thinking: And I should interject that I know social media and twitter especially have been a place where marginalized voices get amplified, queer and trans communities empower each other, and is a space where the patriarchy is perhaps a little more unfelt. Twitter surrounding the murder of Eric Garner and Michael Brown and the subsequent calls for justice was, for me, about donating space, politically or otherwise. It was a moment of newness, where all of a sudden voices arose with anger, great sadness and power, and I watched and listened. This was undeniably how social media was supposed to be used. This is far and away the best part about it.
From about the end of March to very recently, I have had trouble writing, worse than ever before. It was beyond writer’s block and mutated into something of an affliction. By May everything started to come out a little sideways, and I had to work extra hard to keep the words aligned. By July, they looked like glyphs I was stacking, haphazardly, making gaudy and meaningless word sculptures. This continued on and on throughout the year.
This year I broke someone’s heart, and fell in love with the woman who — and I say this with a connection to the cosmic truth that holds the universe together by its seams — I want to be with for the rest of my life. This year I found out one of my best friend had cancer, but because she never posted about it online, I didn’t know about it until we caught up recently at drinks. I went to Mexico twice, I thought I had skin cancer, I wrote many things that I’m proud of, but it was a confusing year, a cacophonous year, a year that I had to end with hemming and hawing about one aspect of my life that I perceived to dominate my thoughts. These are words that are trying to untangle a year of tangled words, and god, I never want to write something like this ever again.
Yesterday I walked through a bluestone quarry, the ground covered in moss and lichen, flanked by piles of slabs shale stacked liked shingles on a roof that surely if you removed one of the slabs the upper layer would slide down. The sky was blue, but snow fell onto a frozen pond. I only noticed the birch trees but those are the ones worth noticing. There are more kettles and moraines and nooks and crannies in this world, and I want to spend 2015 meeting them at their level, and read and write and report about them on the scale that they deserve. That’s my resolution: Don’t tweet.