A friend of mine recently introduced me to Twitter. I’m not sure whether to thank him or not. Don’t get me wrong, I love Twitter. But I love it the way an addict loves crack.
Twitter is a social networking system in which a whole bunch of people post messages in short little bursts of 140 characters or less. When I first heard of this, it sounded unappealing. And if the messages are something like “Just stopped at the pizza place, ordered a veggie with olives,” then yes, it is unappealing, at least to me. And believe it or not, a lot of tweets are like that.
But if you are a political junkie, like I am, and you “follow” as many like-minded political junkies on Twitter, the result is an endless scroll of pithy comments, wisecracks, and pronouncements, seasoned with links to the latest news, blog posts, and general snark. If you add a few dozen very amusing people who say whatever is on the mind—well, you can end up spending hours on Twitter if you’re not careful. So far I haven’t been careful enough.
The appeal for me is that Twitter simulates an experience of being part of a very smart and talkative community, or a never-ending cocktail party, take your pick. Blogs go into much more depth, but the comments sections on blogs don’t have the same sense of immediacy and back-and-forth engagement between people. So if in your everyday life you don’t have that much opportunity to talk casually about politics, or culture (my other area is film), or whatever, Twitter is almost like the real thing.
Whether the short form dumbs everything down, or instead forces you to clarify and tighten your thoughts into a more potent expression, depends on the tweeter. In my case I think it does the latter. On this blog, I tend to go on at length, unraveling whatever subject I’ve tackled to the end, or what seems like an end. It’s my style, and it usually feels like my duty. That takes work, and unfortunately I don’t always feel like working, so I end up posting here only four or five times a month. But when I twitter, on the other hand, I can just go in there, write what I hope is a nice little bon mot, and then go on to something else. Instant gratification. Plus all the other little bon mots end up stimulating my imagination, and so on.
Like I said, crack.
It remains to be seen whether this development will be a good one for me as a writer, or…otherwise. But in any case, you can follow me here.