I love Twitter. Which is also why I hate it so much. It’s like cocaine for media whores. Every time you think you can go a day, an hour, a minute without it, you start scratching your neck funny and you’re back on the rock before you know it. It’s absolutely dangerous.
There are any number of things I loathe about Twitter. Not so much the things we all know about already — like the fact that many athletes are uneducated morons, for one — but rather the things that have come to dictate our social behaviors as a result of 140-character status updates.
Take, for example, the fact that Twitter gives us a false sense of surrounding at all times. Think about it. If you’re alone or even feel for a second that you could be alone (ex. party wallflower syndrome), you can grab your phone and peruse your Twitter feed. You can tune out from the real world and tune into a universe that accepts you for the two or three sentences you, or others like you, might be able to cram into a text box. That’s a powerful distraction, one that rivals drugs and alcohol in its ability to divert the discomfort of a situation.
If you need a boost — an ego boost, an enjoyment boost, a laughter boost, a knowledge boost…I feel like Jamba Juice with all these boosts — Twitter is there to give it to you. There’s a never-ending stream of tweets from those you follow to keep you company. And if you’re really lucky, a bevy of followers clamoring for your attention will catch your eye by tweeting at you. With that much information going back and forth, it’s a wonder we ever look up from our feeds at all. To digest this much knowledge, we would need more alone time than Tom Hanks in Castaway.
And that’s the scary thing about Twitter. It allows us to feel wanted, to feel loved, to feel important, to feel needed entirely through characters on a screen. As a result of that, we don’t need to look someone in the eye to know they care. We don’t need to hug somebody or tell them we love them. There’s an emoticon for that. There’s a retweet button. We can retweet someone we care about all day long and never actually tell them how we really feel. Because it’s easy. And it does the job. At least temporarily.
We, as a people, demand instant gratification. When we see something we want, we need it now. Why have we made credit cards so popular? Why are loans so common? Why do we like fast food? Immediacy. We put an incredible amount of stock in immediate feedback. First dates, first impressions, first kisses, first place. No one ever talks about the second or the third of anything. We want the first. It makes us the best. We hedge our successes on the immediate. You can have that iPhone, but if you’re the last person to have that iPhone, you’re not nearly as cool as the first person to have that iPhone. The end is only slightly more important than the means by which you, or I, or anybody got there. Nobody wants to work for what they’re after. We know that there’s a heavy premium on getting that thing we want as fast as we can possibly get it. That’s the power of immediacy. That’s what makes Twitter relevant.
The immediacy of Twitter allows us to forgo the effort we put into making relationships work. I speak from experience. I’ve gotten dates because of Twitter. I’ve met friends because of Twitter. I’ve made enemies because of Twitter. But Twitter doesn’t actually tell anyone who you are. What Twitter does is provide a window to your brain. I’ve always said that the things I post on Twitter are my thoughts on steroids. They are fleeting blurbs that dash across my brain, captured in a nanosecond, typed up, plastered onto the internet, and shortly thereafter forgotten about. Thing is, while I may forget them, others do not. And because their only exposure to me is through a 140-character medium, they will either love me or hate me based entirely off a social networking application. How crazy is that?
Back in the day, we used to have to meet somebody face-to-face. Then call them. Then go out with them. Then call them again. Then keep going out with them until we were convinced that this relationship would either work or it wouldn’t. We got to know people by being around them. That’s not the case anymore.
Look at it this way. There’s a girl that I like. I talk to her almost every day through some form of communication. But I started thinking about all the ways we’ve communicated in the past few weeks and it blew my mind. There’s Twitter, of course. Then there’s Facebook. There’s email. There’s texting. There are phone calls. And then at the back end of all that, there happens to be the most infrequent way we communicate: face-to-face interaction. For every time we’ve hung out together, there are hundreds of messages back and forth through some other means. And yet the most meaningful thing I can get from her isn’t a text or a tweet or a chat or an email. It’s simple. It’s a smile.
Maybe that’s why Twitter is that thing I hate so much. It’s stealing the moments we can never replicate through words and replacing them with commentary. How do you describe a smile? You would never be able to do a smile justice in a thirty-page dissertation, let alone 140 characters or fewer. But we try to do it every day. I, myself, am guilty of that. I try to do that nearly every hour. Not with a smile, but with an explanation of who I am. Twitter is this thing that confounds me. There are people out there who are interested in those fleeting blurbs that dash across my brain. As a result, I share as many of them as I can. And in the end, no matter how many tweets or retweets come my way, I am left feeling incredibly unfulfilled by my contributions. I imagine I’m not alone in feeling that way, either.
There is something quite ironic about Twitter. It leaves us wanting more. And in leaving us wanting more, you would imagine that we would leave Twitter to find it. Maybe click on a link that leads to an article, or dig deeper to get in touch with a person we find especially compelling. While we explore these avenues from time to time, the irony is that we keep coming back. We always return to that thing that leaves us wanting more, searching for a certain fulfillment that we may or may not ever find.
Twitter is our drug of choice. We’re addicted and we can’t find the rehab clinic.
I love you, Twitter.
But I hate you so, so much.