Sunday, 30 March 2014

In Defence of Twitter

So, here's a post I've meaning to write for a long time (I'd count procrastination among my top five hobbies, if I didn't keep finding other things to do than count my hobbies.  It just took me ten minutes to write that sentence because I got distracted by a sandwich).  Obviously I've kind of missed the boat in terms of commenting on that exciting new social phenomenon, Twitter (I told you I'd been meaning to write this for a long time...), but it's not like debate has ever stopped raging, really, even close on seven years since it launched.

The tabloid commenteriat think Twitter is shallow, stupid, vain.  That social media facilitates playground bullying (it does, but so do playgrounds.  If you want to eridcate childhood bullying you need to eradicate children, but no one ever wants to listen to the sensible suggestions).  The biggest criticism in the press, backed by rent-a-mouth sociologists who have nothing better to do because they didn't study a proper subject at university, is that social media is killing genuine, real world friendships; that teenagers are eschewing nights of elicit underage drinking in favour of staying home and surfing the net, that 'I'm sorry I'm tweeting tonight' has become the new 'I'm washing my hair'.

I could, as I have many times in the past, argue that Twitter and Facebook actually facilitate friendships.  I could point out that in the bad old days before social media, someone you met at a party once would forever remain someone you met at a party once, but now we can connect online, we have the chance to make friends of our acquaintances (I sense already some people will think this is a bad thing.  Anti scoial arseholes).

I could, as I have done many times in the past, point out that I have actually made some great and - I hope - lifelong friends on Twitter and Facebook (I also met The Beast on Facebook, but that's a blog for another day), who yes, I do regularly see in 'real life'.  I would have far fewer people to go to gigs with if I didn't tweet, and for having met other people who like Britpop and faintly obscure indie bands I remain eternally grateful.

However, I'm not going to do any of that.  I'm going to give a much more personal defence of Twitter, prompted partly because of the personal criticism I've had from friends for using it (Janet Street Porter mouthing off about social media in the Dail Fail I can take or leave, to be honest).  So here is why, despite my use of it causing me to very publicly lose at least one job, I still love Twitter:

One evening, I can't remember when, a year or two ago, I think (again, I told you I've been meaning to write this post for a long time) I was having one of my semi regular crises of confidence regarding my appearance, and I was ranting on Twitter about all of the things I hate about my face (in order of appearance: thin eyebrows, asymetric eyes, horrible eyelashes, fat jowels, the lips of a prostitute and the jawline of a rugby player) when someone, who I shan't name, messaged me to say many comforting things, most of which I have forgotten, but one thing they said has stayed with me ever since 'Twitter isn't really a forum for looks'.  And that's the point.  That's why I love Twitter, and why it's the opposite of vain, and shallow.

On Twitter, people care about what you have to say, not what you look like.  Sure, what you're saying has to be conveyed in 140 characters or less, but that doesn't mean it can't be interesting, or witty, or clever if you're interesting, witty, or clever enough.  Whatever I'm jabbering on about when I'm on Twitter, I know people are judging me on what I have to say, nothing else, and if you haven't tried it before, I can't tell you how liberating that how is.  My Twitter feed is public and I use a real picture of myself for my avatar, but you'd only know me if you knew me, if you see what I mean, and the anonymity that affords means you can truly be yourself online, so when people interact with you, and tell you they think you're interesting or whatever, that's incredibly validating.  A couple of complete strangers have asked me out over Twitter before (I didn't say yes, I'm not insane), and maybe I'm being naieve, but it seems to me that it's got to be based on me, actually me, personality warts and all, as it were.

See, they say the eyes are the window to the soul, and there may be some truth to that, because my eyes are a murky bluey grey which is essentially the colour of misery, but I think a person's Twitter feed offers far better insight into the machinations of their being.  I had no idea I was depressed before I joined Twitter, for example.  I mean, I knew I was miserable all the time and that life was, and remains, a pigsty, but I didn't think I had the right to call myself depressed when I've never had the guts to seriously try to off myself.  And then suddenly I would be wondering aloud on Twitter why I did certain self-destructive things, and complete strangers who I'd never met or spoken to 'in real life' would reply 'well, that's because of your depression, DUH', and now I'm in therapy so yeah, I was diagnosed and am now seeking help because of strangers on the internet.

Go Twitter.

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