For the past few months I’ve been getting really, really, really into Twitter. I’ve had various Twitter accounts before (including one fake account meant to be funny but that ended up going nowhere) but never have I been this into it. As more of my non-internet friends/family members learn of my current obsession they’ve been responding with, well, I wouldn’t call it scorn exactly… Their initial response is usually one of mild ridicule and I will admit that I find Twitter a bit ridiculous myself. Trying to communicate in 140 characters? And who are we communicating to? Are our mildly amusing jokes tweeted to our favorite celebrities just an attempt to make us feel like we’re cool? Why do I send out tweets about my need for high-fiber cereal to help with my old-lady-bowels?
The answer I have to that last question is this, “Why do people favorite or even respond to these tweets?” It’s because we like the community. It’s nice knowing that you’re not the only under-sixty five year old who needs cardboard cereal to get things moving along. It’s nice knowing that you can tweet about how you really want a toddler and someone will offer you theirs. This argument of community is the one that gets trotted out the most and many people have, and will continue to, dismiss it as a fake community. If you’ve tried Twitter and it didn’t work for you then grand, just don’t develop a superiority complex because you don’t like something that’s popular. If you haven’t tried Twitter then why are you so convinced that you can tell me what my experience on it is? Seriously, I’m waiting for an answer.
It used to be that when I heard people rag on Twitter I’d roll my eyes and not bother responding since I didn’t have an answer stronger than, “I like it.” (Except isn’t that good enough? It’s not doing anyone harm if I use Twitter so why isn’t “I like it” a strong enough reason?)
Everything changed on the night of the Oscars.
That night, that angry night of people responding to our culture’s casual racism, homophobia, ageism, general scummy-ness, misogyny, was the night that I was able to say exactly why I so enjoy Twitter.
I was in my apartment watching the Oscars live but even though I was in Amherst, Massachusetts I was connected to feminists on both coasts (and other countries), friends in the Midwest and various other intelligent people (the majority of whom I’ve never even met) from around the world. I don’t know what your Twitter feed looked like on Oscars night but mine was a beautiful display of cultural criticism that fed into long and thoughtful conversations.
Now when friends and family make some disdainful comment about Twitter I refer back to Oscars night. I’m able to use those few hours of live-tweeting to articulate my defense. In real time I was hearing opinions from the people I wanted to hear from and links to articles were being shared that provided the context and analysis that you don’t have room for with 140-characters. Instead of sitting in my own anger and swearing at the television (Don’t worry, I did find time to let out with some really great swears.) I was able to turn my emotions into something productive, into conversations that helped me process my anger and get at the root of why I wanted to throw up.
I’ve spent several months crafting the list of people who I follow on Twitter. There are vloggers and bloggers and librarians and celebrities and camp friends and pundits and porn actors and politicians and companies and news outlets and any given person is probably going to be interested in no more than ten or twenty percent of the people I follow. What ties all these people together, why I follow them, is that I value their Tweets. Some of them make me laugh, some make me rethink traditional patriarchal structures and many do both. What’s important is that I want to read their tweets.
Yes, Twitter provides a community, I’m not going to argue with that, but what I saw on Oscars night is how it’s more complex than talking about what you had for breakfast. It’s a source for resources, for connections, for information, for information that I will otherwise miss in my day-to-day life. Not only do I get updates from my friends who live way too far away (This aspect has become more important to me since I moved out of state.) but I receive updates on breaking news stories and get to witness @chescaleigh dole out amazing wisdom. My Twitter account is useful and I adore it and the defense rests.