It’s been a week or so without Facebook and I haven’t looked back.
I don’t miss it. I miss some of the people with whom I interacted and I miss the constant photo stream displaying how your life is so much more fun and important than mine, but otherwise no love lost.
In the meantime, to get my short-form fix, I have turned my attention to Twitter. I never really understood Twitter before; I remember hearing about it in 2008 and how it was being called “microblogging,” which I don’t think anyone says anymore. I signed up, took a look, and never came back. Then around the time of the uprising in Egypt I connected with it again as I found it to be the best way of getting constant updates. For a while the only media coming out of Tahrir Square was from the folks secretly posting to Twitter. Anyone who looked like a “real” journalist (Anderson Cooper, etc.) with a camera and crew was attacked. So, for a while, I was hooked to the steady stream of updates from inside the action. One thing I noticed right away was how quickly I became accustomed to the constant updates; when I would look at a formal news source, like Al Jazeera or The New York Times, I would think, “But they posted that headline two hours ago! Gah!”
Now, without Facebook, I find myself looking to Twitter to know what is going on with Occupy Wall Street. (I almost typed #occupywallstreet instead.) Moreover, I could see Twitter being a tool for a long-term strategy to get my writing out there. What I didn’t foresee at first was that I would actually embrace it.
Yes, I know. My last post was a manifesto calling for the rejection of the short-form. Well, you, kind reader, may debate me here, but I maintain that Twitter can help meet that end. Sure, there is a lot of stupid shit on Twitter–one only needs to click on any of the Trending Topics to see what I mean–but Twitter is more about what you make of it.
Not so long ago, the world on-line was a cold, impersonal place. Usenet started things off that way, and even as the web developed, who you were and what you did was unlinkable, unsearchable. You simply used the internet as a tool to get what you wanted. The web was not something to interact with directly, but was there to direct you to another fixed position, outside of the web.
Now, especially with Facebook, you have your own mediated persona who in turn interacts with other mediated personas. This can certainly happen on Twitter, but it doesn’t have to. The essence of Facebook is readymade for you before you create your account–essence precedes existence. The essence of Twitter is what you make of it–existence precedes essence.
Facebook is essentialist, Twitter is existentialist. Since I consider myself to be an existentialist, it makes sense that I more wholeheartedly embrace Twitter.
On Twitter, I don’t give a rat’s ass who you are, or even if you are who you say you are. I manage my feed in such a way that I only care about what you post, and the posts I care about are those which link to interesting articles and essays, or quick updates from the field. Though I’m a proponent of long-form, keeping my profile to less than 140 characters is a breath of fresh air to me. All you need to know about me is what I do on Twitter. Where do I work, am I in a relationship, what are my favorite movies? You don’t care and I’m fucking grateful for that.
Facebook asks: “What’s on your mind?” Twitter asks: “What’s happening?” I think that says a lot about the difference. If you really want to share with me what’s on your mind, that’s great, I’d be happy to listen. However, I am also a materialist–dialectically speaking–so what do I really want to know when I flip open my laptop?